Ceronsky Expedition Depot – September 26, 2012
Piled from one end of the kayak to the other, my gear litters half the Ceronskys’ garage. Everything is there, equipment from both the kayak’s hatches, things I left before I departed, boxes I ordered and shipped in the last week. Frank the Flamingo is there, Ali, Keith’s sleeping bag, the Baudette fishing pole, everything.
Two years ago, in this same garage, surrounded by a different pile of equipment, I helped my friend Megan load the Ceronsky family canoe onto their old van. We’d met in law school and she’d promised me I would love Minnesota if I ever saw it. A few years later, when she needed someone to help portage her canoe through the Boundary Waters, she called me.
“Come see Minnesota,” she said. “You can meet my family, they’ll love you.”
I still remember her dad Chuck’s grin as he handed me the yolk to carry the canoe with.
“You’ll appreciate this later,” he said.
The canoe is still in the garage, hanging along the rafters, laughing at me as I stare at my equipment.
It feels like the start of the trip again, early June, the day after I flew into Minneapolis and had all my gear lined up next to the Looksha’s hull. There wasn’t a scratch on her then, not a bit of character.
“Now look at you,” I said. “Your so much prettier than when we started.”
I’d talked to Megan as soon as I knew I was coming back to Minnesota. I needed a place to get organized, a launch pad.
“Would your parents mind if I shipped some gear up there?” I asked.
She laughed at me.
“Of course not,” she said. “Whatever they can do to help.”
One box turned into two, then three, then five. Then I was in their garage surrounded by equipment and a new yellow boat.
“Your room’s all ready for you,” Megan’s mom told me when I arrived.
That night, over dinner of wild game, Chuck, Megan, and her brother Joe filled in the bones of my route with details, bits of flesh, little hints that flickered in my memory for past three months. Almost every day some bit of advice they passed over the dining room table found its way into my world, some story made me laugh, somehow I knew the Ceronskys were still watching over me.
I didn’t know much then. I remember packing the Looksha for the first time. Nothing had a place. I just shoved and squeezed until it all fit. Now I know what goes in every inch of her scratched and battered hull, from nose to tail, but I can’t load anything now. I just push it around feeling unsure because what I really want to take is impossible to bring along.
I want to take the garage, the Ceronskys, their whole house and move it to Iowa or Missouri. And when I get there, I’d move it again, send it to Tennessee or Louisiana, somewhere just ahead, somewhere I could reach towards, somewhere I would always be able to crash into on the brink of disaster.
So I stare at all my equipment piled high in the Ceronskys’ garage and I can’t pack a bit of it because I know that when I do, when I close that last hatch and slip into the water, this time, I will be alone.