May the water take us, and make us, much like the liquid flows, into and of and one with the others, the currents the collective bestows.
I’d heard of the infamy, the prestige of canoe trips of the past. Stories of laughter and animated exchange between great brethren have filled my ear on a regular basis, and so when I received the invite on Facebook to skim the Wisconsin River on a late summer weekend with a clutch of old comrades, I felt like a fish having finally found the pond. The process was to include uproarious shenanigans, humble anecdotes of soulful inquisition and the unquestionable tomfoolery relegated to a handful of cunning creatures crashing nature’s available bachelor pad.
Inclusion is a word that hardly offers proper justice to the aforementioned aspects of the most recent weekend. From the moment we packed our tents, duffels and canoes into the back of the trucks and began our climb across the countryside, our abs enlisted within the weekend warrior program. The sound of laughter might as well have been the air itself because it erupted from our lungs like concert notes from a stack of speakers, and each area on the side of the road that was deemed suitable for rest included exclamation for and admiration of each other.
And then, without warning, our paddles hit the water, our eyes the view outside. The day had been designed for our presence within it, and we weren’t to be mistaken for chaps unwilling to recognize. The river was housed by a foundation of soft sand, perfect stomping grounds for bare feet that don’t believe in any toe at times theory, and although we had to battle the wind during portions of the trip, the desire to be anywhere but that particular location was an opponent that fell like a flock of birds searching for lunch right below the surface of the water.
The weekend festivities was an opportunity to celebrate one of our warriors, as he had recently decided to suck in that big breath and take the jump into the rewards and responsibilities of wedlock. Our salutations filled his ear and assuredly brought the reassurance to his perspective that is needed from loved ones during the decision-making process of life-altering resolutions. He is a great virtuous man, and I am as proud to have him as a friend as I am to know that he will move forth with humility and resolve in fulfilling the dreams of the woman that is constant in his.
What I received most joy from throughout the weekend, though, was not just the celebration of one man, but my personal celebration of every man surrounding. Friendships I had made in my youth were rejuvenated in a matter of moments, and I spent the entirety of a stellar slide down the liquid miles asking of the intricacies of their current desires and independent ideas. I saw many fine lads whom I had not witnessed for years. We lamented over some who couldn’t make the trip, and others who never will again. In a matter of a mere 48 hours, we conquered wet tents and cracked smiles at dry perspectives, all the while asking for no more or no less, but precisely what we had in our midst.
I have lived in a number of different places in my life now, and in each of those settings I have met individuals who I will invite to my own wedding someday, but there is a certain unquestionable bond that exists between me and the originals that helped build the one place truly known as home. I realized this weekend the maturation that has been setting up camp within my character this last decade does not reside in a one-horse town, as the tents of each man there was in close proximity to my own.
The blessings of brotherhood present themselves with constancy, and my appreciation for those who build the bridges and provide shelter from the rain in my life are not of short supply, and yet of tall order to replicate. I thank the gentlemen who are jesters in my court and soldiers by my side. The river would not be as wide if you had not been my elixir this long.
And in recent I witnessed reminders aplenty, that our friends are just what they seem, the vessels that keep us afloat in the sun and the ripples that end us downstream.
My heartiest congratulations to Ryan and Lauren Widmer.
Eric Engel, formerly of Tiskilwa but now of Peoria, can be reached by email at email@example.com.