The dawn comes late to the lake in November.
Soon the ice will be free to shrowed the entire lake and stop the babbling brooks gentle chatter.
And the chill will become midday freeze and then, even the marching waves at the shore will cease their parade, and be held firm by the grip of winter.
But today, there is still a hint of warmth in the sun, which is too tired to rise high. And the winds that so often blow northeast lay dormant, waiting for the ire of the sea.
Today I woke to a repetive tapping, passing unobstructed across the lake.
I lay cozy in my sleeping bag and thought it may be a woodpecker, warm in his down and drilling for a grub. But no, the sound is too rhythmical. The tapping incessant, like water torture, tap, tap tap on my forehead as I tried to sleep.
"What the hell." I spoke to a tent filled with my friends. But no one was there to hear. I got up and stepped outside.
The circle of ice floated across most of the lake.
It's a thin layer of ice today, just imperfect gloss that covered most of the lake, except for 20 yards, that ringed it like a hang man's noose.
The sound came from the water, that remained circling the ice. It was a football field away, that I saw Abe paddling an old wooden canoe.
I smiled and appreciated what I imagined he was appreciating, for I was once the boy who lived beside the lake. And I also grew up knowing the seasons around a Maine lake.
Every year, since the mile tall ice sheet receeded back to the artic, season have been the same. It's been a seasonal ebb and flow of the ice forming and deforming. And I've witnessed many more of these transformations then I care to mention.
In my youth it wasn't a wooden canoe, but an old wooden rowboat that I used against forming ice. That old rowboat has a story to tell.
She changed color more frequently than a camelion, depending on whatever paint color my dad had left over from a job. My mother often joked that the old wooden boat was held together more by layers of paint than by nails and glue.
But my mom didn't appreciate her, the way my dad and I did. Every other spring it seemed, it was time for the old girl's make-over, not my mom --the boat.
My dad and I, okay mostly my dad, would wrestle the boat up on the shore and he'd, with some feat of superhuman strength, heave first the stern than the bow up on saw horses.
Here, on my dad's operating table, he'd inspect her as a concerned physician may his patient. He'd graft plywood here over the bow. And make other grafts, as needed along her hull.
With the repairs complete we painted. I liked the smell of paint and the easy to sense feeling of accomplishment when the job was complete.
Then we'd flip her over, making any necessary repairs, and paint the inside too. I didn't like painting the inside so much. It was harder work because of the narrow space at the bow and the three seats, just wooden boards, that spanned the interior at even intervals.
Like most of my dad's repair jobs, she wasn't much to look at (bird feeder), but she would hold up. As you can imagine, she was also difficult to row straight, but she did keep out the water--mostly.
I know it's my fault that we needed to repair her as frequently as we did. I'll give you a hint, I nicknamed that boat "The Manhatten". Okay, at the time I was 12, she's not named after a drink, or an island, but after a US icebreaker. A huge vessel built to plow into ice and crush the ice beneath.
So picture a 12 year old, rowing hell bent towards this gire of ice, crashing into until jolted to a dead stop.
I'd scramble to the bow and balance on a triangle board at the tip, no greater than 8x6, and hop up and down, under my full weight, admittedly a lot less than now, until the ice wood break beneath the boat. Then I'd row backwards, 10 yards or so, and paddle determinedly towards the wall of ice again and again. In the hopes of thwarting winter or encouraging spring.
Is it a wonder we repaired that boat so often?