Aug 182014
 

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Today is transition day, I’m feeling a ton of things, and letting something shift inside. Punctuated by Roxy Music.

Al and Kathy have put us up in a delightful cottage on their property on Duck Lake, and this has become my base of operations as we picked up Miss Powassan and put her in the water Friday, toured the lake, and polished the day off with an excellent dinner at the Old Mirror Lodge. Nancy and I had our wedding party there in 2006, and it was very sweet to come back, visit with friends and owners Verena and Urs Bärtschi, see table cloths we left there after our party, and see how good the lakes and the Lodge and other properties are looking. Some businesses have closed, so the whole area seems a bit subdued since my last visit in 2009, but maybe that’s just me.

The Jones cabin is in pretty good shape, after four years without guests. The dock has some damage from winter ice, but is still quite serviceable. The stairs need to be leveled, but the inside of the cabin seems undamaged, although mice have left nests everywhere. The canoe and kayaks are there, and so is my camping and fishing gear and a lovely piece of art that Kathy gave us for our wedding.

It rained all morning Saturday, so we stayed in and enjoyed the cottage. Jen flew out of North Bay in the afternoon to meet her sister in New York, and I have entered the solo part of my journey.

Turning off Highway 11 at Trout Creek, onto 522, I turned on music. Tried Fleetwood Mac for a few minutes, but that didn’t feel right. And Roxy Music seemed perfect. Loud. Very loud, in fact. Remember “Avalon”? Sink into it.

I could feel at the time

There was no way of knowing

Fallen leaves in the night

Who can say where they’re blowing

As free as the wind

And hopefully learning

Why the sea on the tide

Has no way of turning

More than this – there is nothing

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I am unwinding Nancy as I drive. 522 from Highway 11, the final 40 minutes to Duck Lake. Nancy always insisted on driving it as we completed our four-hour journey from Toronto each summer to arrive here. Now I get to do it alone. This is no longer her lake, or our lake. It’s mine.


My heart has flown away now

Will it never stop bleeding

Alone, I can feel the Nancy-sized hole in my heart, and my eyes are wet off and on all day. I’m not really crying, or even feeling sad – although I am sad that Nancy will never be here again. I feel surprisingly connected to this place, just as I have always felt coming up here, and I was not expecting that. Being here without Nancy feels much like it did with her, restful, quiet, heart-opening. Ah, I’ve arrived. Here is my destination, the Crowthers cabin, with the lake in the background.

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…and Miss Powassan (under the green cover) and my canoe, resting at the dock, with the Crowther Navy.

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* * *

This morning dawned bright and clear, the first warm and sunny day since we entered Canada four days ago. I sat and meditated, then Kathy and Al and I took Nancy’s ashes out into the center of Duck Lake in Miss Powassan, and scattered them with a bowl full of clipped wildflowers. I held the ritual from inside my Vajrasattva practice, which is all about purifying karma. So strange and mysterious to see each hand-full of her ashes fall into the water, and sink into the depths, trailing a cloud. I spoke the Tara prayer as I returned her to the elements. I was slow and deliberate. This is not-Nancy – I believe her spirit is in motion elsewhere – but it is the final physical remains of an incarnation, a very specific and special person that I and many others still love.


All the world, even you

Should learn to love the way I do

I was lost, can’t you see

Through the long lonely night

Heaven knows, I believe

You can take a chance with me

The jewel box where I’ve kept her ashes was surprisingly light in my hands as I removed it from the boat. And there is a lightness in my heart as well. A commitment is fulfilled, as is our marriage vow. I am delighting in the day, as I tend to chores, register the boat trailer, and pack for the journey home.

 Posted by at 11:33 am
Aug 142014
 

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We’ve arrived, after five-and-a-half days of easy travel, beautiful scenery, and happy coincidence. Our overnight stays have been in three hotels, two campgrounds and with my sister Camille in Idaho. Along the way, we’ve experienced a lot of trains, a fantastic bakery in Reno, a wonderful family dinner, more trains, booming oil economy in North Dakota, and what my friend Chris Olson refers to as Large Weather.

One of the best coincidences happened because we missed the turn off for US 93 to Twin Falls Idaho, and had to take a smaller state highway farther east that connected up to the interstate near Pocatello. This road, almost completely void of vehicles, took us through the middle of a thunderstorm. Our dusty Jeep Cherokee was pounded clean by the torrent, while lightening flashed all around us, once only a couple of hundred yards away. We don’t get these kind of desert monsoon storms in the bay area, and we both miss them, so we grinned ear-to-ear at each other as the thunder cracked and boomed.

I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

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Grand Tetons, Wyoming.

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Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park. One of my favorite geologic features in the world, with one of my favorite people.

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10,900-foot pass in the high Rockies, on US 212 in southern Montana.

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Itasca State Park, Minnesota. This is what a visitor’s center should be! Amazingly informative about flora, fauna, CCC projects during the 1930’s, camping 100 years ago, etc.

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The Mississippi originates from Lake Itasca. So we crossed it right next to the lake, where it’s only 10 feet wide.

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Camping in Itasca State Park. Jen gave me a Biolite for my birthday, so we used it for cooking. This little wood-powered stove also charges your cell phone, and heated water for coffee and oatmeal quite quickly.

After we crossed into Canada at Sault Ste. Marie, it got cloudy, then started to sprinkle. By the time we entered the lake country south of Sudbury, we were hitting a steady rain. This part of Canada is gorgeous, unspoiled, and mystical. It’s as though the countryside is weeping as Nancy’s remains return. The rain continues without a break as we settle into our friend’s cabin for the night. I feel a little surreal; it’s my first time here without Nancy, and that makes it a different experience. Yet I have my own connection with this country, and that part feels the same. My heart opens and my body relaxes as I see the oh-so-familiar Duck Lake, with it’s islands and boats and birch trees. Tomorrow, I pick up Miss Powassan, and check out the Jones family cabin.

 Posted by at 10:54 pm
Aug 022014
 

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In a few days, I’ll be starting a two-week road trip to Ontario, Canada.This will be my first long driving trip in years. It is also a journey that will mark a deep change. I’m going to Canada to scatter Nancy’s ashes. There it is. And…I need to pick up some boats. And fishing gear. And perhaps say goodbye to a lovely part of the planet that came into my life with her. If you are dialed into Jungian symbology, it’s a lot that’s all happening at once. So this posting is the first, the prelude to the dream, so to speak. I will write more as the journey progresses.

Port Loring is a small town, surrounded by lakes and rivers, an hour’s drive to the nearest supermarket, and the cabin is only reachable by boat. I think I traveled there seven times with Nancy, flying to Toronto, driving 4+ hours, then putting our boat in the water and motoring across Duck Lake to the cabin. It was a journey not worth doing unless we stayed at least a week. Opening the cabin was a full-day task, with a quarter-acre of vegetation to whack down, a ton of household goods to unpack, beds to make, lots of cleaning. We got married there, we rested and entertained friends and did craft projects and cabin maintenance. I became quite skilled as a plumber because of the Jones family cabin, and got tons of practice piloting small boats, towing water skiers, kayaking, picking berries…there was always something to do. No TV or cell phone service, few radio stations, intermittent phones and electricity.

The last time I was there was 2009, although Nancy and her sister Janet were there in 2010. No one has been to the cabin in four years, and I don’t know what I will find. Dock damage from the ice for sure — it was a nasty winter, and the lake had many inches of ice all the way across. The property will be overgrown, but the annual robin’s nest in the porch rafters should have chicks by the time I arrive, and I hope to find our canoe and kayaks in good condition. Miss Powassan, the 16-foot Giesler cedar-strip power boat that we bought in 2006, has been safely stored, and recently serviced, ready for the water. I hope to have a day to cruise for hours down the Pickerel River system, through a half-dozen lakes, and see all the lovely places one more time.

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Sunrise from the cabin, absolutely quiet except for the occasional loon call. Below is the view from Miss Powassan’s cockpit, cruising the lakes on a cloudy day with showers.

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Trip planning has been a pleasure, as we will drive through Idaho, Yellowstone, Montana, and east through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Sault Ste. Marie and into Ontario. Friends have been kind enough to let me stay at their place on the lake, so I don’t have to open the cabin or find a motel. We will dine at the Old Mirror Lodge, with longtime friends Verena and Urs Bartschi, who hosted my wedding party. This will be bitter-sweet, bringing Nancy’s remains to their final resting place, and releasing that most important part of her from my life. It will also be delightful, to be in this pure and beautiful place once more, and share it with Jen for a couple of days. I’m looking forward to the whole journey, even as it feels odd to return without Nancy. Duck Lake was always Nancy’s home, the one constant in an ever-changing life as an Air Force brat. And so it will be again, as her remains join the geology.

 Posted by at 6:14 pm
Jul 272014
 
another comment on the mideast

So much has happened this week in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, or more properly, Judaic and Islamic influence in the area. So many have commented, it seems like everyone around this conflict has gotten spun up into their polarization. It’s painful for me to watch. The pain is in the polarization, the [...]

 Posted by at 4:51 pm
May 312014
 
urban turkey trot

My mornings and evenings have been punctuated by some all-American sound and action for the last couple of weeks. My house seems to be home-central for a flock of wild turkeys. The action starts right around 6am, with a parade. This morning the parade started just up the street from me, and proceeded apace right [...]

 Posted by at 10:21 am
May 082014
 
love and fear and fearlessness

I had a whole epiphany the other day, sitting with a glass of wine, and I can finally put it to words. Fear is not present. Funny expression, you can read it a couple of ways, especially from inside the buddhist practice of learning to be present. I actually heard the phrase a year ago, [...]

 Posted by at 6:35 am
May 032014
 
las camelias

I have adored two restaurants in the last forty years. One is the Pacific Cafe in San Francisco, a haven of west-coast seafood since I was a young teenager. The other is Las Camelias in San Rafael, a Mexican restaurant on Lincoln Blvd. that has been a part of my consciousness since I wandered in [...]

 Posted by at 10:27 pm
Mar 262014
 
loss and loss again

I have a friend who passed away last night. He’s been fading for weeks under hospice care, after two years of cancer and treatment, gradually losing mobility and some awareness, but never his sense of humor. I never went to visit him in the hospital, but he’s never been far from my awareness over the [...]

 Posted by at 8:18 pm
Feb 052014
 
parting with roy

An era is coming to an end, my faithful steed Roy is going to a new owner. When Jen and I bought Mz. Parker last year, I knew it had to happen, and now it’s time. I’m just feeling the whole shift. As usual with my posts, there is a story in the background. Nancy’s-brother’s-wife’s-father [...]

 Posted by at 8:23 pm
Feb 032014
 
unjunking the news

Exploring some of my Buddhist connections this evening, I delighted upon the Facebook page for the king of Bhutan, His Royal Highness Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk. And I immediately found out that one of the dzongs (‘fortress monasteries’) in Bhutan burned almost to the ground in 2012. I had no idea, even though I visited [...]

 Posted by at 10:10 pm