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The Lakota say that today is a good day to die.
Virginia Wolfe wondered aloud if our whole life
could be reflected in the hours of one day.
In the hours of one day are the echoes and ripples of all of our personal histories,
the world’s story, the expanding universe, inner thought and interpersonal passions
reflected in the moment, the hours of one day.
Paddling down a shallow river in a red canoe
with my daughter at the helm.
My wife and other daughter paddling along,
behind, in front, along side
we careen over rocks and riffles
relishing the ride.
Breakfast that morning was a pie iron pie,
fresh blueberries and pie filling between two slices of buttered whole wheat bread
toasted over a campfire
in an iron clasped pan with long handles so as not to burn myself,
though the bread was blackened on one side
this was the most nourishing pie I have ever devoured,
berry stains on my t-shirt to prove it
served with fresh coffee also roasted over the fire
served with chocolate milk
followed by the work of taking down the tent
and packing things to paddle on
catching a quick refreshing cold shower
like snatching something impossible between
the work, the food, the expedition
is a good day
to live.
Reflected in the ripples are more than hours
but the sandstone cliffs of ancient seas.
Scraping the bottom of the canoe are
schist and gneiss stones warn smooth
by years of cool water rushing over them
stained with the red from other canoes
not so lucky
or skillfully driven
by my daughter
paddling our red canoe down this shallow rapid river.
I nearly caught a water snake,
a northern water snake,
often aggressive
I tried to scoop it up into my net
but it writhed and wiggled,
hissed and slithered
out of the net
and into the river.
doesn’t quite capture it.
Its undulating body shimmering
in the afternoon sun, muscles stretching and contracting,
trying to escape the net
until it disappears
in the shimmering afternoon water
of a shallow river.
Most of the morning
we had the river to ourselves
my wife, my daughters,
the snake and I
along with a thousand darting shadows of fish
who kept leaping out of the sparkling river
appearing for a moment of joy
or fear
chased by the larger fishes
or simply relishing the movement of water on their scaly skin
gasping air
before re-immersing in their watery world.
Later in the day
we encountered the hoards of tourist who flock to this river
in rubber rafts
on every sunny Sunday.
My worst nightmare was tempered by the painted turtle
we caught sunning himself on a rock
in the midst of these garish hoards
she was resting, relaxing, unnoticed
until my daughter’s careful eye spied her.
We paddled up stream
and scooped up the turtle
sharing her with a stranger,
a cute eight-year-old girl who smiled at the sight of the turtle,
and then we quietly let it go in a clump of cattails
at the river’s edge.
Every day
is a good day
to die.
After checking my reflection
in the rearview mirror
while driving home,
I saw that I was sun burned, wind burned, my hair was greasy and windblown.
I had hat head and the look of a man
who had just paddled thirty miles down a shallow river in a red canoe.
We stopped for fireworks.
We stopped for dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant.
I like it so much because everything is fresh.
I had two margaritas and fajitas and
remembered the number of years I had had Mexican food on my birthday.
They gave me a corny hat, a straw sombrero
which my daughters took turns wearing,
luckily for me,
I have such wonderful girls.
My wife finished the interminable drive
always heading home.
Sleep was deep, restful, needed.
Reflecting on the hours,
is a good day.

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