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Coming in hot...

Life does not get much better than sitting by a fire in the gathering darkness, flames building and bats swooping overhead and hearing an eight-year-old in a kayak yelling, “Look out! I’m coming in hot!”

We’re on vacation for three days. The whole clan gathered at a big house on a lake. In this day and age, gathering is not an easy thing. Numbers One and Two had to get off work, there were baseball and softball schedules to work around, and all the adults still needed to, you know, earn a living. Every year it gets to be a little bit more of a thing to pull everyone together, but it always feels like it’s worth the bother.

This year the motif seems to be low stress. We came from four different directions and there was no supper menu planned when we hit the road. I was driving while my wife worked the phones, talking over possible menus. Our son saw a sweet corn stand, I’d made some homemade refrigerator pickles, and the hot dogs and baked beans fell neatly into place.

After supper three fisher-people went out in kayaks to try their luck while I built a fire. Oddly enough, I'd forgotten a hatchet and other fire making utensils, but I took the Leatherman out of the door of our car and whittled some kindling loose from the stack of firewood. With three old receipts from the glove compartment, two napkins, and the cardboard off a tablet of writing paper, victory was mine.

The fire hit full speed about the same time the fishing crew returned. One of the kayaks was moving at what some people might consider an excessive speed, but it’s not like he didn’t warn us. A young woman who’d never caught a fish before had a nice one, and her uncle cleaned and cooked it for her on the spot. There was an old movie on tv and a nightcap around the crackling fire. We weren’t in the wilderness; traffic was bustling fifty yards away, and other families were sitting by fires to our right and left, but it was nevertheless a quiet and lovely time.

I went to bed early and the next morning I was up early because, God help me, that’s what I do. I stepped out the door toward the lake and saw no one else in any direction. The sun was coming up over the horizon and it was a gorgeous scene, with a cloudless sky and a bright red ball of sun. Right on time a loon started...looning... somewhere on the lake.

But here’s the thing. A cloudless sky is an excellent omen for a vacation day, but most of our state is mired in drought – a few thunderheads would have been welcome. The red sun was pretty enough that I went to find a camera, but its vivid color was because of smoke from forest fires in Canada. Part of the reason our evening was quiet was because our family roster wasn’t complete until late. One member was coming from having a much-loved old dog put to sleep and everyone was kind of sad.

We live in a beautiful, entrancing, engaging world, no doubt about it. But we also live in a perilous world, where pain and sorrow looms on every horizon. Part of becoming an adult is understanding that both of those are true statements and embracing and dealing with both the pain and the beauty.

The house is stirring now, and I’m off to make breakfast for twelve.

It’s going to be a wonderful day.

Copyright 2023 Brent Olson

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