I’m gliding through the mist on the open waters of lake Temagami. I’m staring at my canoe partner, my closest friend as he dips his paddle into the water, out of the water, into the water… I know what’s up. This is what’s up. I’m connecting with my boyhood and I don’t know it yet, I’m growing and gaining appreciation for God’s creation, and in aw of the several hundred meters of water below my 16 foot canoe, and the thousand year old trees gliding by me on the left. I’m 13.
These are vivid clear memories, the kind that I can recall on a moments notice and feel like I’m back in that same moment. My friend? Jason. And I got here because he’s my best friend, and best friends go on vacation with each other. He’s a big dude, bigger than me by far so he powers the bow. That’s where you put the muscle in a canoe, plus he couldn’t see me when I wasn’t paddling. I went on several canoe trips with Jason and his family. It actually helped shape my life. Jay’s parents had much to do with it, but more notably on these trips, it was Uncle Bob and Aunt Esther. Uncle Bob was a big man, and he’b always paddle in the bow, and only on one side. The right side. Aunt Esther would handle the stern like a seasoned canoeist from the early days when canoeing was a real mode of transportation in Canada. I’d watch them as they would move through the water, and I had a lot of respect for them. I used to watch Aunt Esther paddle and try to do what she was doing. Uncle Bob was fairly no nonsense, but fair, loving and totally willing to let me carry a knife. Aunt Esther was sure and steady, very motherly and she taught me how to build a fire and cook bannok. And you know something, I always thought she was incredibly special.
It was Aunt Esther that encouraged Jay and I to ride the ABS canoe over the beaver dam. It was Aunt Esther that said lets make a sail on that windy day as we made out way toward Maple Mountain… and that day we made record time as we cooked food in the canoe. She had a quite confidence about her and a big heart. She just was what she was. And it was Aunt Esther that passed away last week. I’m writing about it here because she deserves to be recognized. She will be mourned, and we will feel the loss… Even if I haven’t seen her in a number of years, Uncle Bob and Aunt Esther made a large impact on my soul, in the fibre of my being, and as I type this I shed a tear not for her, but for her husband, and her family that will miss her so much. Not for her, because she’s doing OK now. Nope, she doesn’t need my tears any more. Or yours. The tears are for me and you.
Here is to the people that make unassuming positive life impacts on young boys and girls. To the men and women that are strong pillars of normalcy. Here is is to letting a scrawny red head on a few canoe trips and imprinting the kind of goodness into his life that would impact they way he would live his life.
I love you Aunt Esther, Uncle Bob, Jay, and family.
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