July 11, 2006
My parents' camp faces west across the Big River, which means that in the evening, we enjoy spectacular sunsets, the whole bay glistening bright red as the waters reflect the sky. But as much as I love the vivid colours of sunset, I also love more subdued hues of the evening, when the colour leaks slowly from the sky, with the marshes and forests turning black, the islands going grey, the water silver.
Our shallow, weedy bay is quiet, especially in the evening. Tourists in speedboats rarely come to our end of the bay: the big marsh with its acres of cattails and muddy creeks does not seem to appeal to them. I feel sorry for the kids I see in big powerboats, cruising in the river, who never get a chance to see the marsh, to play with turtles or snakes, or to have mudfight. But it’s nice, especially in a beautiful region that does attract tourists, that we have always gotten the south end of the bay to ourselves.
Sailing on the bay, with a light evening wind, we ghost around between the big mats of weeds, the wooden hull of the boat brushing over the tangled vegetation. As the light dims, the shoreline on all sides of us turns to darkness. I still remember the time we took one of my father’s friend sailing once at dusk. He looked at the grey cattails, the dark shoreline, and asked, "How do you know how to get back? It all looks the same to me."
My father and I have been sailing in that bay since the 1960s, and every rock, every cliff, every bit of marsh looks familiar to us, even in the dimmest light. We don’t talk much as we sail, which is probably one reason we get along so well on the boat. My father and I have been known to get into arguments at the suppertime, much to the amusement and annoyance of other family members, but in all of our many sails together, I can not recall a single argument. Sometimes we just glide along in silence, with murmured commands from whoever is at the helm: "ready about" or "hard to lee" or "get ready to jibe." Sometimes we talk over changes to the familiar summer landscape, whether it be someone on the other end of the bay building a new dock, or one of the grandchildren bringing a new boyfriend to camp. But mostly, the wind keeps us company, and the sound of the water gurgling against the hull.
Posted by jo(e)