Date with a Lover, 12/8

Bill and I had equivocated over Denis Guertin’s video of his spade bit swirling a full inch of slush before it labored thru 2″ of solid ice…..not reassuring!…..this was countered however by an ice-hound’s imperative….we absolutely must stand on frozen water….we absolutely must bash axes against solidity….or die….

we rolled into the tiny crossroads of Saint Aurelie, Quebec at 1030, where Denis appeared by cellphone-aided serendipity within a minute. The day had become deeply overcast and–gasp!– snow was falling…our spirits were high but worried….this was certainly a long shot! Lac des Abenaquis is Denis’s Plymouth Pond: about the same size, very shallow, and not surrounded by mountains. We explored the east side by road, but the watery margin was too wide to cross. On the west side, however, you could take a wide step onto the white snow ice. We carefully walked out, hearing the comforting barking sound of moderately solid ice, without the tinny zippering of sub-2″ ice. Everywhere was almost 3″ of solid ice with 1/4″ inch of dry, unbonded snow….amazing how slush can solidify overnight cooled by good ice beneath.

we walked to the middle of the lake, bashing Bill’s long axe. With a moderate swing, the blunt end rebounded. With effort, however, it went through. We remembered Lloyd’s saying, “if the axe goes thru, you will too!” In the middle of the lake was a lovely 7 knot westerly with occasional gentle gusts to 10. Hooray! Let’s go sailing!

we three excitedly set up. Bill was setting up “Cool Tool”, Lloyd’s beloved super-DN, now converted back to a DN. He couldn’t find a clevis. I set up Icywood, finding numerous semi-important problems I had procrastinated. Denis set up his “Parad’Ice” with the wrong mast. no problem!… his giant trailer contained 4 complete iceboats! we pushed out of the lee of the pits….

and there….there…there, dear buddies….the magic resumed….as Bill said, it was like the 7 intervening months had never existed….this day connected right up to last April. Surprises were ahead though. My new jam cleat grabbed my mainsheet unbeknownst, and in the first puff, over I went. Tarnation!… luckily captive inside a still-intact iceboat, I gingerly lowered myself down the 5′ to the ice….and ruminated on Lloyd’s fierce hatred of cleated sheets.

Using some frozen-in blue chlorox bottles at the south end as a starting line, we organized two races, blasting down the full length of the lake, turning where the leader (always Bill!) chose to turn. I found that by turning at the same time, I could lead the pack half way back to the start. You can cruise all you want, but nothing beats a match race for an adrenalin rush.

It was now about 1PM, so we stopped for a snack and–sure enough!–the wind went light. We hurried back out, but I was having trouble winding up my heavier boat in the intermittant 4-5 knot air. Frustrated, I traded boats with Bill. to save face, I claim that Lloyd’s sheet, going through the boom, laiden with sticky slush, did not properly sheet out. I began a long slow hike, which grew to the tipping point….and there, I made a soft-water sailor’s mistake: I continued to try to luff to windward, when I should have strongly borne off. Over that beloved beauty went! my second capsize in a single day! I fell down to the ice like a log from the intact boat, luckily without fractures. Bill’s first concern, he admitted later, WAS NOT FOR HIS FRIEND’S SAFETY!

I was bruised in many places, but the boat was unhurt, so we made the best of the dying wind. We noticed that Denis’s buddy Frank had gotten off work early and set up against the odds. Denis was going to stay to keep his brother-in-law company, so he helped Bill and I decommission for the return. Tuesday was almpst surely windless so, with many good-bys and handshakes, we left these two warm and faithful friends.

back home, i limped across the threshold with two duffel bags, and gingerly lowered a bruised and aching body into the first chair. Brenda added up the day’s reckoning: a 14-hour disappearance. 8 hours of car immobility. a scant 2+ hours actually iceboating…probably more yakking than sailing….. many insults to a 74 year old body. …. i shook my head….she just doesn’t get it….on the inside, was a deep smile immune to any reckoning….against all odds, Pearl Harbor Day had brought a dreamy date with my other lover….

Here’s how you measure time:

I Knew a Woman

by Theodore Roethke

I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:
The shapes a bright container can contain!
Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,
Or English poets who grew up on Greek
(I’d have them sing in a chorus, cheek to cheek).How well her wishes went! She stroked my chin,
She taught me Turn, and Counter-turn, and Stand;
She taught me Touch, that undulant white skin;
I nibbled meekly from her proffered hand;
She was the sickle; I, poor I, the rake,
Coming behind her for her pretty sake
(But what prodigious mowing we did make).

Love likes a gander, and adores a goose:
Her full lips pursed, the errant notes to seize;
She played it quick, she played it light and loose;
My eyes, they dazzled at her flowing knees;
Her several parts could keep a pure repose,
Or one hip quiver with a mobile nose
(She moved in circles, and those circles moved).

Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay:
I’m martyr to a motion not my own;
What’s freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.
But who would count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways).

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2 Responses to Date with a Lover, 12/8

  1. Beautiful and charming essay on your grand day. Thank you.

  2. Don Stearns says:

    The cleated sheet does not have the brain or speed of a nervous hand. Or so spoke the broken plank.

    Sent from my iPhone


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