At least that’s how I felt at the time, and typed madly into my laptop a little over two weeks ago: That’s the funnest, funnest thing I ever did. It was 12:30 a.m. in Deer Lake, and Jonny and Dora and Janet and I had just returned from a fishing trip. We’d boated a long way across a string of lakes, cooked our fish on a little island somewhere, and boated back in the last red rays of sun and then in cold darkness.
The lake I cannot describe it, I typed. My eyes were heavy and brain sandy, and I was frustrated because the moment was too big to write down.
The lake so big and us small, trees dark along the edges. The light on the water, and shadows of trees poking down into it in thin spikes. The water golden white pink, so many colors reaching down into the water like northern lights. Waves fanning out behind the boat in two big curves, water foaming.
We had started out around 5:00 that evening, wind in our faces. I put my hand in the water, grinned into wind. Jonny and Dora in front, Janet and I in back. Sun in our eyes, searing gold; I could not see unless I put my hand to my forehead. Janet pointed at Dora, who was sitting sideways to face us, her blouse puffed out by wind as though she had grown enormous breasts. “Take a picture,” Janet said, and I did. We laughed together, laughed at anything or for no reason, happy to be together after so long.
We rode a long time; then Jonny stopped and idled the motor, reached for the fishing poles. I like looking at Jonny’s face: brown and worn by weather and so kind.
I threw my line into the water hesitantly, watching how Jonny and Dora jiggled their lines and trying to copy them. My arm messed up my next cast, and the next and the next, dropping the line only a few feet from the boat; and they laughed with me, their laughter warm.
I got a few fish, but they were small jackfish, and I had to throw them back. Jonny and Dora both caught walleye.
We met Bruce and Karen and pulled up to a little island to build a fire and cook our fish. Jonny put two rocks near each other to make a platform to place a skillet, and someone gathered dry driftwood for the fire.
We had bread and cans of corn and beans to go with our fish, but no potatoes; we forgot them. We forgot the plates and cups, too, and had to make do with a margarine container for one plate and its lid for another, and a couple pieces of cardboard torn from a box. For cups, we had a couple of empty mayo jars Dora had refilled with sugar and creamer and brought along for tea.
Nothing in the world tastes as good as fresh-caught fish cooked over a fire.
I went back for seconds and thirds.
“I don’t eat beans because it makes a sound I don’t want to say while we’re eating,” Janet said. I was confused until Bruce explained: “Fart.”
We talked. Sometimes they break into Oji-Cree and then I cannot understand them, but that’s okay. I like to listen to the sound of it.
“I met a guy in Winnipeg,” Bruce said. “He asked me if we still sleep in teepees.” He sounded annoyed, sorta like I feel when someone calls me old-fashioned or asks if I drive a horse and buggy.
“You should have told him yes, and that they have electricity now,” Jonny said, and we laughed.
The sun was setting and I took pictures. “Look over there above the trees,” someone said. And we looked and a thousand tiny stars danced above the trees: a thousand bugs turned spark by sun glinting on their wings.
The camera could not show it.
On the boat ride back, Bruce and Karen came behind us and cut across our waves, the boat front lifting: bump bump bump bump. They pulled alongside us, very close, and Janet was scared and clutched the side of the boat, her face dropping for one second and smiling immediately afterward, laughing it off.
We rode through a cathedral of stained-glass window, water smooth as glass except where it frothed behind us, light slowly fading. It is never quite dark on the water, though; even at midnight some glimmer of light is still there.
Trees rose out of fog: black nether-worldly fingers fantastically shaped. The islands in the dim light cast shadows of absolute black. I saw two black spots on the purple water and looked around, wondering where the shadow was coming from and why it was there so sudden on the water. Clouds, maybe, or rocks beneath the water?
And then, after a long ride grown quiet and cold, we were pulling into shore, lights from the town shining golden on the water. We clambered out of the boat, lugged out our cooler, our pillows and fishing rods and container of gas, and hurried to the van because it was cold and there were mosquitoes and we were tired.
And at home, my spirit all light and air, my soul deep with wonder, I pulled out my laptop and tried to write it down. My words couldn’t quite catch it; it is still there, I guess, glimmering above the trees like a thousand stars.