Copper Island, Lake Superior – September 8, 2013
I wanted to stay in the Slates. I wanted to light another fire under that old metal bathtub and soak all day. I wanted to sit in the warm cabin until I grew bored enough to read the faded, three-year-old fashion magazine someone left there. But I have to keep playing the game.
The weather is shifting and Nipigon Bay is only twenty miles away. Wait another day in the Slates and a rising southern wind might shut down the six mile crossing to the mainland and the exposed coast after it. Slip out, reach Nipigon Bay and the string of islands at its mouth, and I can paddle on one side or the other, flipping the shore to block almost any weather.
One day spent learning which jean cut was right for my body type in the summer of 2010 might cost me two, three, four days. That’s a hundred miles.
It’s like a chess match. I’m just the slow moving king trying not to die and the islands, peninsulas, and points are all my pieces scattered across the board. I’ve got to shift them into place between me and the wind that moves like the enemy queen, pressing from one side then the next. The wind moves, I move, and the game goes on.
Or maybe it’s like football and I’m the running back, the land is the offensive line and the wind is the defense trying to smash me into the ground and the Franks are the ineffectual quarterback who can do nothing but hand off the ball and overthrow receivers.
Or it could be like hockey and I’m the puck, the islands are my team passing me from one to the next toward the opposite net which is Thunder Bay and the wind is the other team, which is prone to dirty hits and is trying to separate me from my islands.
Or perhaps it’s like baseball and the islands are the bases and I’m running around them while the wind is an outfielder with a cannon arm or a relay man trying to catch me between bases and tag me out before I reach home plate which is Thunder Bay.
Or possibly it’s like tic-tac-toe and the wind went first and put an x in the center box because that is the obvious first move and now I have to block it with o’s and play it to a draw by not letting it get three x’s in a row which is a giant wave breaking into me.
Or it might be like Monopoly and the wind has hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place, but I own all the greens which are the islands and I need to not roll a five or a seven so I can pass go and collect $200 to buy houses for the islands, and jail is Lake Superior, Thunder Bay is Free Parking, and the dice are the voices coming over my weather radio.
Or maybe its just like kayaking and I’m the paddler, the islands are islands, the wind is the wind, and I pack up slowly, not quite into it, sweep out the cabin, stack some extra wood near the tub for the next person, and leave before the waves pick up because that is how you play this game.