Lac Des Roches, 1977

I’m tucked between grandparents 
on a vinyl expanse of bench seat
as their Ford Country Squire station wagon — 
baby blue with faux wood panels — 
cruises north from Seattle.
We stop for gas and I wheedle them
to buy me Junior Mints 
and Archie comics off a spinning wire rack.
Somewhere over the border 
we stay the night at a Sandman Inn 
with burnt orange bedspreads and scratchy sheets 
smelling faintly of Pine-Sol and stale coffee.
The next morning, my grandfather steers northeast
and later, through lengthening shadows 
at the dusty end of a gravel track
we reach a hillside of honey gold waist-high grass
bowing under a warm, clover-scented breeze 
sloping down to the shore 
of Lac Des Roches.

I have one faded photo from that trip: 
eight year-old me on the cabin’s cement slab doorstep
arms held high and in front
each thumb clamps the slippery tail 
of a speckle-scaled rainbow trout.
I’m afraid to hook my index fingers 
through their gill slits like my grandfather shows me
scared to bring my fingertips too close
to those arcs of tiny teeth.
Arms trembling, I wince a smile at him
please, Grandpa, hurry up
one picture is enough.

And it is enough
even through the yellowed lens of years
to relive each moment from that morning:
how we walk down to the shore
breathing in with all our senses
the boat receiving us
like two hands cupped in supplication
how my grandfather helps me zip then cinch
my stiff life-jacket
how we rock gently, lulled
by the motor’s soft, sputtering hum 
our wake shearing a sheet of silvery silk 
to the lake’s center
and how
in the unbroken calm 
after he turns the motor off
the quavering calls of black-and-white loons
echo across the mirror-smooth water 
ringed all around by pungent spires 
of cedar, spruce, birch, and fir.
Grandpa watches, wordless
while I choose my lure
ties it on for me
then shows me 
how to cast 
to wait
to be.

My grandfather and I are suspended in time
forever caught on the cusp between
heaven and this still blue lake 
where we ride a reflected 
corona of evergreen 
rising up 
and 
up.

Photo by Clark Cottrell, Jr.

*****

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