Ashes to Fishes

When my dad died, we had instructions to scatter his ashes in “the Pike Hole”, a cove in the Au Train Basin in Michigan’s upper peninsula. Being unable to make the pilgrimage with the folks, I submitted the following words, and found a north-facing bank on Lake Hartwell and sipped (guzzled) a toast at the appointed time.

Fifteen years ago on a gray pea soup fog morning
we pushed a boat onto these waters
for the first time.
The boy on the dock said, “Cast right into the weeds
and you’ll either catch weeds or a fish”
and he was right.
When the fog lifted, the rain commenced
to fall and the wind began to blow and it was all we
could do to stay on the water, but we caught fish
like we never caught fish before.

Though we never really left – who could ever leave
a place like this? – it was still a couple seasons
before the Old Man and his two boys
were back on these waters, living by gas light
in the cabin in the woods by the lake
catching fish like we never caught before.
That was after your heart betrayed you,
the time you told us not to feel bad
if you died tomorrow. . .
Of course you didn’t. Thankfully,
there were a lot of tomorrows, a lot of them spent
right here, a lot of fish caught and lost,
drinks drunk and songs sung, good times and
bad times, but the worst of times is better than
no times, which is something we all knew
that a lot of folks don’t seem to.

So now we’re back again, back to the food chain,
ashes to fishes, and the grandchildren of creatures
which nourished us shall be nourished
perhaps indirectly
by you
and grow
and turn again
to nourish your line
and it is right, quite right,
that we should pause here
in this beautiful window into eternity
to remember
and celebrate your life.

September, 1983

Which all kind of came back to me this fall when my brother caught the 38″ long Northern Pike you see here in the same lake. The process seems to continue. . .


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