Monday, May 23, 2011

Beguiled Again At The End Of The World

Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit.
W. Somerset Maugham

Generally speaking I don’t like boating. When you’re in a boat you’re at the whim of both mechanical motors and the water, neither of which has ever shown any love for humans in boats. I think the water resents boats that make noise and are powered by anything other than a paddle. I think boats resent humans on the water.  I am careful, very, about who I get into a boat with, because when you are in a boat with people that’s who you might have to count on to get you out of trouble you all got into together to begin with. I learned to be likewise careful about who I drink with for just that reason.
            But this is Mark the Mystery Writer, stepping up to Captain Mark, and Sandy the Painter, filling in as Chief Navigator, Buoy Watcher, and First Mate. They have invited Elbow and myself for a End Of The Word Cruise to a tiny Oyster bar somewhere on the banks of Lake Seminole. This is one of the few chances I get to talk writing with someone who really knows how to write, other than Elbow, and Chief Navigator, Buoy Watcher, First Mate Sandy has never met a dull moment in her life. Cast off! And Cast away the cares of the day! Let the sun shine, let the water be calm, and when Elbow is involved, let the dithering begin!
            After a side trip to the feed store we were actually early. Captain Mark and Chief Navigator, Buoy Watcher, First Mate Sandy were ready to go so off we went to the marina on the Flint River, and there in her berth was “Beguiled Again” not so much as a river boat but a rather smallest yacht, replete with a canopy to keep the sun off of us and a very large motor to keep the wind on us. We loaded the supplies, Chief Navigator, Buoy Watcher, First Mate Sandy is the first person I have see, ever, get manual labor out of Elbow, and we cast off on a day that was supposed to have ended when the world did. Can you really have lower expectations for a cruise than that?
            As odd as it sounds, I left my camera at home, and my cell in the truck, on purpose. I needed to disconnect from my life for a day, and when I take a camera with me, as I do all the time, I usually spend so much time looking for that one perfect shot I have no time to simply enjoy the ride. Even if you are only a passenger in a boat, you ought to pay attention because there are no landmarks in the water. One tree stump looks very much like another. Indeed, we arrived at the short cut to the oyster bar, and there was brief debate as to whether or not this was the right one. There was a massive Great Blue heron in the water, and as we very slowly chugged up stream, it would lift off, fly ahead of us as if it were our spiritual guide, wait for us, and then fly forward ahead again. The weather was perfect, the water clam and clear, the trees and water plants incredibly vibrant, and the conversation was wonderful. Yet the slough dead ended at a boat ramp where there was nothing but a Great Blue Heron, and we were beguiled again, by its beauty.
            A quick vote was taken as the count was 0-3 in favor of not throwing Chief Navigator, Buoy Watcher, First Mate Sandy overboard for leading us into Blue Heron territory. Away we went, trying to figure out which buoy meant what and trying to avoid smaller craft. But this was not a destination but rather a journey. Captain Mark the Mystery Writer is a clam and methodical man who writes much like he plans for a boat trip. There is little wasted effort, no panic, and Mark is the type of person you’d find in front of a burning house, all his belongings intact, and him wondering aloud why he didn’t manage to get the smoke detector out before the house went up in flames. Chief Navigator, Buoy Watcher, First Mate Sandy is lively and animated. If Mark was trying to figure out why the smoke detector wasn’t saved, Sandy would break out marshmallows, so the moment would not be wasted. Elbow is an unhurried soul, not prone to despair or schedules. If you are going to get lost in a slough, and know not what to do, it is good to have Elbow, and Mark and Sandy, too.
            We joked muchly about the end of the world, and why people believe in such things yet the conversation drifted about like a leaf in a current. The sun climbed higher, the boat moved forward, and we saw such things as an Osprey nest with chicks in it, and all manner of wading birds. The right short cut was found, a log was run over causing much concern but no damage, and finally we arrived at the oyster bar and it was if we had discovered the New World.
            The oyster bar was just an elongated shed that was screened in and where they had installed a sprinkler system on the tin roof to help cool it. Inside there were dozens of oddities on the walls and ceiling, including maybe a hundred one dollar bills with names of former patrons written on them. This was indeed a laid back venue, catering to the tired, the sunburned, the half drunk, the boater whose engine had failed, and for those of us who were having a great time, too. There was no pretense here at all, no dress code, no formalities to worry about, and the food wasn’t bad at all.  Elbow did practice a little gymnastics on the way out, tripping on the dock and scaring some small children.
            We got lost again, on the way back, dithered a while, and I even took the helm for a short while, much to the consternation of the crew, but we managed to survive that, too. In the end, Chief Navigator, Buoy Watcher, First Mate Sandy and Elbow serenaded us with “Beguiled Again” a song by Ella Fitzgerald, and the world did not end.

Take Care,
Mike

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