Sunday, December 07, 2008


... in the wide open spaces on the eastern edge of metropolitan Milwaukee. On this particular day in November, there was no escaping it. We were three -- Doug, Sherri and I -- and gray was all around us. All hint of summer was long blown away by the cold wind; and in the void of summer gone comes the sense of foreboding and something forbidden. All is more serious. So many things can hurt you.

In the summertime lake -- at least in my all too wild imagination -- I see more color, hear gentle sounds, and feel a general sense of lightness in the water and in the air. But with November come more days of gray, and one doesn't even think to go looking for gentleness.

The summertime lake is like a grand benevolent kindergarten teacher, cheerfuly maintaining a graceful order, seeing to it that all -- all the sailboats, fishermen, and kayaks -- are happy and courteous. Everywhere is finger-painting and children's chatter. But by November, the kindergarten teacher is long gone, and in her place is a hard-drinking, unemployed, ne'er-do-well brother-in-law. With him, you step carefully, come well prepared and expect the worst.

On this day, Doug, Sherri and I had the lake almost to ourselves. To the south, along the breakwall, there were a few duckhunters on the water. In the main harbor, near the USS Freedom, there were several small nimble law-enforcement boats skittering about, maintaining a protective perimeter around the newly commissioned warship.

That is to say, except for Doug, Sherri and I, everyone out there was well-armed and on a mission. This is the lake in November.

On this day the waves were moderate -- some over our heads, but not too steep nor with much spilling -- easily manageable by skilled, experienced paddlers. Yet there's enough power in each wave to not let us forget that the lake could let loose with one itty-bitty "ka-CHOO!" and we'd all be scrambling to stay upright. On days like this you cut the nonsense and leave it onshore. That's one of the things I love about late autumn paddling -- being out there in the wilds of metropolitan Milwaukee with two friends whose skills I know and trust, and who feel the same way about me. On this particular day, there was no better place to be.


Blogger Silbs said...

Great post. We're on the same page.

5:40 AM  

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