In recent days I have been thinking about how important traditions are in our lives. Over the course of time we all develop traditions that take on great significance and value. Many of the traditions that we value have been passed down to us from parents and family members. Sometimes these traditons relate to food, special events or holidays, and for some of us, the love of wilderness and paddling.
I have a client who lives in Whitefish, Montana. He and his sister are planning a trip to Quetico this coming paddling season. John and Nancy had a father who instilled in them the love of wildeness and the love of paddling a canoe. Their father, and his twin brother were born in 1910 and lived in Memphis, TN. Here is a part of a recent email I got from John:
One day, if my sister and I ever get it typed up, I'll share with you the detailed log John and Jim kept of their Mississippi River trips. The logs are fascinating, but they are written in longhand, in a journal, and they do not photocopy very well. John and Jim were two of five sons, all of whom were Eagle Scouts (and there were two daughters). They both ran field hospitals (later called MASH units) in WW2 in northern Africa and in Italy. They were incredibly close -- called each other almost every day until my dad died first, Jim a year later -- and they loved the outdoors. My love of canoeing comes straight from my dad. Once you canoe in the wonderful country where you live, you are hooked for life, and John and Jim loved the trip we took there in 1968. They both played the mandolin and harmonica quite well, and on that trip Jim took his mandolin and John his harmonica, and they serenaded us around the campfire each night. One night while sitting around the campfire, on a powerful transistor radio we had taken, we picked up a crystal-clear broadcast from Memphis, where we all lived. I cant remember what station or program we were listening to, but occasionally, in the background, we could hear the whistle of the Southern Railroad! It was, to say the least, weird!
How cool is that? John and Nancy are trying to convince a few friends to join them on their trip and to aid in that process, Nancy has written a poem to entice them. With Nancy's permission, here is her poem:
“ . . . . . Come, my friends,
And let us seek a newer world
Where nature’s beauty is unfurled
And paddles ‘round canoes do swirl.
Push off, and sitting well, smite
The sounding furrows with delight
To sail beyond the sunset far
And sleep beneath the northern stars.
Our hearts lie where the northern pike
Incredibly and fiercely strike
And bend the rod like a full-drawn bow
As they struggle and leap from far below.
Where spruce and fir like steeple rise
In adoration to the skies.
Give us paddles and sleek canoes,
We’ll portage and explore the views
Of gleaming strings of wilderness lakes
All for the joy of adventure’s sake.
The fellowship of campfire tales
As we listen to the wind’s wild wails
And watch the path the gray geese fly
Across the moonlit Canadian sky,
Will lodge for life within our minds
And settle gentle like a tie that binds.
. . . . . with apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Dr. James G. Hughes and Dr. John D. Hughes, my uncle and father (twins)
Evidently, besides being avid outdoors men, they were Doctors, musicians, and poets.
What is your story? Is paddling a tradition in your family? Are you making it a tradition that you will pass down to your children? Tell us about it. We would love to hear your story.
Thanks John and Nancy for sharing a part of your lives with us. It makes us feel like we are a part of your tradition.
See you on the water...