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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Friday, July 25, 2008

Working Title: "Unsettled" One

Post was called "Series Not Yet Titled"...
As mentioned in the previous post, we're on a "staycation," camping just a half-hour or so from home. The girls are reading, and I've been pecking away at my laptop when not bike riding, hiking, swimming, or sleeping in a hammock. I wanted to post about the summer of '71 when my brothers and I helped Dad hand-dig a 32 foot deep cistern well. It's the how of the well that I think you'll find of interest, but you really need to know the where and why of the well as well. It may take a while to get to the well, but oh, well, it's best to start at the beginning. Here goes….
Chapter One: The Picnic was a Ruse
Revised slightly Tuesday, July 29th
(the word "unsettled" was added twice to the paragraph 3rd from the end).

The summer and fall of '68 was unlike any other in my twelve-year-old memory. Partly because I'd finished Huron Park Grammar School and was entering Burton Junior High, the halls and characters of which my brother Dave made bright with stories I would soon be stepping into. But mostly '68 was unique because my little brother Jim had been born in May. I was twelve, my older sister and brothers were teenagers, and Dad and Mom were nearly forty, but they seemed young again, and with a baby in the house, the details of time and space and life seemed to matter more.
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One October night at supper Dad casually announced that the next day he was going squirrel hunting. It should have struck us that never before had he taken a day off in the middle of the week in the middle of the fall to go to the middle of nowhere to hunt something we never ate. To this day I don’t know if he found the property while truly hunting or if, to avoid premature questions, he took his gun along to look at some land he'd heard was for sale. All I know is he was pretty happy the next night at supper--considering he didn’t bring home a single squirrel.
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What he wasn't telling anyone but Mom was that he'd found a piece of land about a half hour north of our small suburban l home. It was close enough to get to, and far enough to take us from the city. Fourteen acres of virgin timberland--maple, hickory, sycamore, beech, sassafras, and oaks by the score of such girth two men could not touch fingertips around the trunk. And right through the middle of this dense woodland was a winding creek just big enough to take a canoe from there to the Salt River which fed into Lake St.Clair.

Contemplating such a purchase was a rite Dad chose to perform alone. He wanted to take his time, walk it with a compass, look at it from all sides, pace the unmarked lot lines in mumbling incantations of math, trudge up and down the hills, pull branches from the creek, pretend for a while this land was his. And at the end of the day, after all this tromping 'round the edges, he stood dead center of it and turned deliberately east, then south, then west and north to see if it still felt right. Then looking up he sighed, "Lord, help me know for sure." He’d done this before with less perfect plots and come home without a word, but this time it was different. This time he knew he would return.

The next Saturday, Dad and Mom took three of us on a picnic in the area where Dad had gone hunting. Kathy and Paul didn’t come. Paul had his Detroit News route, a thing he hated, but money was money. With a double canvas bag on the back of his bike and a third ‘round his neck like an albatross, each day he paid his penance to the press. Kathy had other duties. As an officer of the “Young Peoples” group at church, she was expected to attend the "fall planning party." “Young Peoples” was no doubt a name chosen by old people decades before, but it was much more fun than its innocuous name suggested--they had parties to plan parties! And the week before this fall planning party, Kathy and her two best friends, Sharon and Minda, had a sleep over to watch “Tammy and the Doctor” and then stay up late planning for the planning party. [To this day, Kathy is a compulsive organizer of events that would otherwise never happen, and we four brothers are forever indebted to her.]

Truth is, they didn't miss much of a picnic. Mom packed sandwiches in a bag, and once we were out in the country, we ate them right in the car while Dad ate and drove with one hand on the wheel. Jim ate to--took a bottle I should say--while Mom held him in her arms. [“Child safety seats" were yet unheard of--not that they would’ve done much good since most cars on the road had no seat belts.] So Dave and I were eating, lost in other thoughts ‘til Dad slowly rolled by a long stretch of woods with huge oaks that stood at attention as we passed. He didn't say much else aloud but began tapping Mom's leg and mumbling things we couldn't hear. This was the purpose of the country cruise. We didn't know it then, but the picnic was a ruse.
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Continuing down the road, the tree-line abruptly ended where a wide square of land had been cleared between the woods and the Salt River. With the sky now in full view, Dad saw something to his right and shouted, “Look at that!" Mom’s hand went to her chest to brace for some horrific sight. We were relieved to see instead a gigantic bird in flight.
.“Is that a crane or a heron?” Dad wondered aloud,
as if he were not the only one in the car who could venture a guess. No sooner had he spoken, and the graceful thing, whose focus must have been the water below, flew headlong into the electrical lines that scalloped the horizon. For a moment it was tangled in the clash, then tumbled limply from the air and disappeared in a drove of cattails on the far side of the narrow river. With a gasp Dad stopped on the bridge and ,as if he were somehow to blame, ran down the grassy hill and into the high weeds.
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“There’s nothing you can do, Don!” Mom said to her closed window.
Dave and I got out and followed him until our shoes started making sucking noises in the spongy wet ground. Dad trudged on. We could see only his head bobbing in the bulrush until it ducked to dodge a blur of blue-grey feathers. Having caught its breath, and taken Dad’s as well, the fallen creature fought to catch the wind. Up, up in frenzied flapping then out and over the river where it found again the rhythm of its wings. Drawing in its long neck, it climbed high above the power lines, and then swept left toward St. John’s Marsh a few miles further east.

“Did you see the wing span on that thing?” Dad laughed, emerging from the high weeds. “It was a heron not a crane. A blue heron.” He caught his breath and repeated the news to Mom who was now standing beside the car burping Jim on her left shoulder.

“Don, look at your shoes. They‘re soaked.” she scolded.

“Yeah, it was wet down there, but I stayed out of the mud… mostly.” He picked up a nub of stick beside the road and, balancing on one foot, turned up the sole of the other shoe to scrape a thick wedge of mud from the front edge of his heel. “But did you see it take off? His wing span must have been five feet. It was like slow motion-- just scooping air." He switched legs to do the other shoe. "I’ve never been that close to one. It’s a wonder the fall didn’t kill him or break a wing. He sure took off when he saw me.” This child-like chatter was not common for Dad, but it was typically brought on by the adrenal rush of such experiences. He took a breath, then turned quite seriously to Mom and said, “You’ll never see that in the city. Never see any of this there. The river, the trees, wildlife--this is what I mean, Bev.”

To Dave and I it seemed a sudden change of tone, but the remark, like most things we overheard in life, was actually part of a life-long conversation we’d not been privy to. This one in particular had been whispered behind closed doors since '61, when we first moved to the city, and it always ended with the same word: “someday.” But such talks were more than idle thoughts to Dad; it was a recurring dream that occupied his mind by day: to take a bit of unsettled land and work it with his hands into a place his kids and grandkids would call home. Each time this wishful thinking slipped out in words, Mom’s unsettled enxiety kept the dream in check. And so as not to tip the scale, Dad knew we boys must be the last to know for just a hint of what was on his mind, he knew, would stir our imaginations beyond the quieting power of “someday.”
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The date Dad put an offer on the land is a matter of record, but I've always thought that it was there along that river, where we’d seen the fallen heron rise, that he knew he must this time grab hold of his intentions. And it was there on the bridge, when he was scraping mud from his shoes, that Mom saw a sparkle in her husband's eyes, an energy for life she feared would fade when now, with a baby in her arms, they needed it more than ever. It was in that moment that her years of apprehension gave way to all she knew this moment meant. Dad's "someday" had come.

So safe was their secret that Dave and I stared out the windows all the way home, still talking of the heron, oblivious to all else we had seen. It was a week or two before we knew where we had really been.
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Posted during a brief window of "internet." Still camping through next Tuesday....

10 Comments:

Anonymous quilly said...

Excellent set up. My appetite is whetted for the rest of the story!

25/7/08 12:27 PM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

And the new story begins.

25/7/08 5:47 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

YEA... a new story with all of my favorite characters!

Enjoy your camping... make some memories... one day your girls will be writing stories about YOU!

25/7/08 9:15 PM  
Blogger heiresschild said...

hi Tom, great beginnings. can't wait for the rest.

26/7/08 9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your post regarding the Staycation almost sounds like a "set-up" for a story! I could see in my "mind's eye" (almost) the idylic camp-site and everyone's activities or lack there-of. :-)
Ahhhh sweet summer!
WSL

26/7/08 3:47 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

All,
Thanks for stopping by and for the kind "reading" of this start. I have brief and weak internet access. Had to send some school emails and checked in here. Rough draft of the first part of Chapter 2 may appear Monday.
Weathers great! Lake Michigan water's refreshing. Julie got into some poison ivy--ah the smell of calomine!

27/7/08 6:29 AM  
Blogger JR's Thumbprints said...

That's no heron! That's a pterodactyl!

Land is a precious commodity. There's only so much of it to go around. Sound investment, that's for sure.

29/7/08 3:24 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

JRT,
I do recall you posting about the one you can see from your house in the Detroit suburbs. My brother Dave says he sees them from his house in Mt. Clemens, but believe me... we never saw them in Roseville back in the Sixties. =)

Land is indeed a good investment. The only trouble with this sort of investment, is that the endearment increases faster than the value of the land, making the monetary value come at great cost in that when you sell the investment you no longer have the place you called home.

This is the dilemma my siblings and I face as we approach the 40th anniversary of these events and why I'm writing these posts at this time.

29/7/08 8:27 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Revised slightly Tuesday, July 29th
(the word "unsettled" was added twice to the paragraph 3rd from the end).

That's the way I feel, "unsettled", as I wait for the next chapter.

Hoping for a great camping experience for you and your family.

30/7/08 11:43 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Nancy,
As this series develops, you may be able to help me decide if "Unsettled" is a better title. I've actually been waivering between the two titles for 48 hours. I hope to get chapter two's draft presentable tonight.

30/7/08 7:05 PM  

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