Monday, April 21, 2008

the two fives

I have been thinking about being 55 for a while now. Of course, hitting the two fives is just as significant as hitting any number. Another day ahead! Fifty-five, fifty-four and a fraction, what’s the diff?

To me, it is a big deal. There’s the birthday part, that’s huge. And then there’s the fifty five.

I give myself this day to pause and consider where I’m at. It’s like going to court for a progress report, but you’re before a forgiving judge who pats you on the head and tells you to give yourself credit in life for merely getting by and not messing up significantly.

So that’s why I like to celebrate.

When I was a kid, my parents were not much into celebrations, but my next family sure was and we did splendid things for each other’s birthdays.

Right now, I hang out with the non-celebratory kind and so it’s a challenge to do anything beyond the ordinary. Still, it’s a beautiful sunny day and so the ordinary needn’t be so ordinary. We can slap on some sunscreen and head for the great outdoors.

But, it being a Monday, we get a late start on things. And there’s a kayak to inflate and a truck to load up and so it really isn’t until after 3 before we get to the village of Germania. Ed’s thinking we could pick up the Mecan River there and paddle down a dozen miles toward the Fox River.

We get out to leave our bikes at the take out point. Oh, but what happened here? Where’s the river? The forest looks flooded and the bridge over what must be the river almost touches the water level.

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If you lean forward, you can make it under the bridge. No, not me. My adventuring quotient is low this afternoon. I want to emerge whole. Indeed, I want a good meal at the end of the day, not jello on a hospital tray.

We drive up and inspect all bridges along the stretch we are to navigate. I finally agree to put in at the Germania damn and take out some six miles downstream.

Germania. What can I say. It is the most depressing village I’ve seen in the state of Wisconsin. We are not an island of prosperity up here in the Midwest, but Germania is so down and out that it looks like everyone’s given up. Debris. Old motors. Rusty everything. Heaps of nothing. Fallen porches. This, for a grocer:

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…and this for a saloon.

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Hearty appetites, no?

We unload the kayaks and pick up the current.

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At first, it is serene, wide, beautiful. But under the first bridge, we hit some rapids and Ed’s boat takes in water.

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We continue. What can you do. It’ll be a springy but wet ride down for both of us.

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Ah, but the sun – though low now, it’s still there. Sort of. Behind a cloud or two, then out again. Swallows dive and soar, two sandhill cranes hover over us with their odd folk song. Ducks take off in pairs and we watch it all – this show of water fowl, one minute with us, the next, off to people free places.

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We paddle to the shore and bike back and catch the one beautiful Germania view: of the lake in the early evening light.

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By seven, we’re back on the road to Madison. Past Montello, where fishermen and boys try to pick up a few striped bass.

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Past herds of deer and fields of burning orange.

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Home to Madison. Home of many birthdays past. Home, at fifty five.