Volume 7- Edition 1
Summer/Fall 2006
Andy Ezrin Trail MIX Pets Alive
Two For Review On The Air Guest Reporter Contest Fan Corner

I struggled with the writing of this letter. I stared at the computer's blank page for hours. I left it on the screen while I found a million other "chores" to do around the house. I lay in bed at night feeling the pressure of the deadline. I read my polite reminder e-mails from Ellen and resolved to get it done… soon.

It wasn't my usual procrastination. I'm an idea person so I generally have no problem with coming up with ideas in abundance — everything from the sublime to the ridiculous, but in abundance. I was struggling to find my theme.

Someone hit my pause button.

The problem is that I am truly "on the fence." I am in the exact middle — the halfway point. Only by the grace of God there is as much stretching out behind me as there is now in front of me. What is all this nonsense, you may ask? I am exactly 45 and a half years old. It feels like the true halfway point. Though I carry the shiny number 100 in my head as I have done ever since I was a child and learned for the first time about death, I know that only a very few lucky, and maybe not so lucky, people reach it.

Turning 45 has been huge. It has changed my whole thinking process almost overnight. The changes in my physical self are still thankfully not major — unwelcome, but workable. The changes in my brain are profound. I can't seem to escape it. I forget for a while and then — bang — there it is again. I'm still doing all the same things I always did. I'm stiffer in the mornings and sometimes downright sore, but I still do everything the same. I just think differently. Without even trying, I now look at everything from a slightly different angle, as if someone shifted the world on me… just a little shift.

I was asked to give the commencement speech at a college I attended for a while (about a million years ago), and I was surprised to be asked because I temporarily forgot how long ago it really was. That speech has been included in this edition of THE VOICE. I gave that speech in the spring. Spring is really when this whole 45 thing started to hit me. I've had a summer of revelations. I recently took my son Jake to Minnesota to spend 8 days with my parents on the lake where I grew up. I wanted him to see Minnesota in the summertime. He needed to know that I didn't come from the North Pole and that summers are green, warm and beautiful in Garrison, Minnesota. We hiked and fished and sat around my Dad's fire pit at night roasting marshmallows, hotdogs and our faces when we got too close. Did I mention my Dad is a bit of a pyromaniac? We watched the beautiful sunsets over that lake where I spent many hours of my youth dreaming about doing exactly what I am doing now. I had not been home in Minnesota in the summertime in almost 15 years. I'd been there for gray frigid leafless Thanksgivings and frozen white Christmases, but I had not been there for the season of my youth — summer. Summer in Minnesota is the only time I really remember growing up because winter is long with short days filled with nothing but school and waiting for spring. I needed to go home when it was green and the lake was waiting in order for me to bring back my real childhood. Whatever I am now was conjured up in the summers on that lake in Minnesota.

Jake had a great time. I had a profound time. I rode my Mom's old fat seat no gear bike around the tiny town of Garrison just like I used to do on my own bike so many summers ago. Not too much has changed in Garrison, and something about that is both comforting and weird at the same time. Oh, there have been changes. Some things are bigger, newer and shinier, but they are right next to things that haven't changed in 30 years.

I watched Jake as we sat in the old row boat and fished for "sunnies" and perch thirty feet out from our dock. I realized as I looked at him that he was only a few years younger than my brother was the first time we sat together in that boat. Back then my brother would pull the guts out of the fish when they swallowed the hook. This time I had to do it. Poor fish. I did learn that earthworms don't feel pain just pressure, and that made me feel a little better. I really hate putting worms on a hook, but I love my son.

Bald eagles fly over the lake and often land in the big Norway pines in front of my parents' house. You hear loons call all day, and we saw several pair swimming with their almost grown babies. There are several new and too expensive houses built on the lake now and it is strange to pass them while we fish, but I had to pass them on the way to the fun places on the lake that my brother and I used to find. You have to paddle into the tall reeds and wild rice like we did the day he almost fell out of the boat when a Canadian goose flew over our heads so low that we could have reached up and touched it.

My Dad did some fishing with us. Watching him steer the boat made me think of the time he woke my sister and I up early before school, one cold and gray fall morning, to take us out duck hunting. He had felt that he hadn't been fair always taking my brother on hunting trips and had decided to take the girls. The two of us sat huddled under a blanket freezing while we waited, and I secretly hoped no ducks would fly. No ducks flew. Maybe freezing to death makes too much noise. He prefers ice fishing now, but he came along on a few trips to run the outboard motor and give us the grand tour of all the new "too big and expensive" homes. My Dad was there when Jake caught his first fish. A few seconds later, I caught the smallest Walleye on record. It ate the hook. Dad…

I don't like the motor. I like to row quietly around the lake.

I went out by myself early one evening after dinner. I finally let Jake watch the cartoons he was having withdrawal from and went down the hill to the water alone. I rowed out to the fishing spot in front of our dock and started casting. I had my Dad's old tackle box and fishing reel. Just looking at all the lures brought back memories. My Dad has a lot of lures. He admits to being an impatient fisherman and changes lures every few minutes. I also had a big rubber glove and a huge needle nose pliers in case I actually did catch a fish. (I hate touching them) In an hour of fishing, I caught a lot of weeds and only one northern but it was exciting, and fortunately the fish came off the hook while I had it by the boat trying to decide what to do with it. But in that hour I saw the most beautiful sunset I think I have ever seen. The lake was like glass. Besides every shade of yellow, red and orange, this sunset had shades of purple. Sitting out on that water in that little boat with all that color and air around me made me feel like I wasn't just looking at the sunset — I was part of it. At its peak, I looked up the hill to my parents' house to see Jake racing down it, cartoons forgotten. I rowed back to the dock, which juts out straight west from the shoreline. I gave him the reel and watched him fish off the end of the dock, casting like a pro into that amazing sunset. My parents' house sits 120 feet up a steep hill overlooking the lake. I wished for my camera, but I'm 45 and it's a steep hill. I can only hope the memory stays as clear as that moment. It was a summer of revelations, and it reached its peak on that old sun bleached dock.

As much of life behind as there is in front — if I'm lucky.

For eight days in a Minnesota summertime, I stopped to look back for awhile. On that dock silhouetted by the sunset, I saw the ghost of a skinny 13 year old girl beside my son — one casting into the past… the other casting into the future.


Growing up in Minnesota...


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