As a child, growing up with vacations on these northern lakes of Minnesota and Canada, I would sit on the front swivel seat of a Lund boat, while my father would cut a “V” through glassy water.
I would sweep an arm from left to right in an exaggerated gesture, as if to say: Look at all this, would you? And then I would swivel to catch his eye, and we’d throw back our heads in laughter, and lift voices so the Heavens could hear us shouting in unison: “This is the life!”
I find myself in that place again at the end of this dock, with my own children. I feel especially close to Heaven, but I’m in no hurry to get there. For I’ve been given much to enjoy here.
My heart spills with gratitude, and I whisper to the girls: “This is the life, huh?”
The bobber dips, and the girls jerk and reel and giggle. One after another, little sunfish fill the green bucket.
We intend to send the “sunnies” back home when we’re done fishing. But for a time, we collect them like trophies, dropping them in a water-filled bucket. The girls want to make the fishes’ home-away-from-home comfortable, so they add a few amenities. They add handfuls of sand, and moss-covered rocks, and a sprig or two of seaweed.
They lean over the bucket and sigh with satisfaction as a dozen happy sunfish twist and dart and swirl in their temporary residence, this old green bucket.
But the sun will soon be lowering over birch and pines, and now it’s time to go inside. We need to let the fish go home.
I tip the bucket ever-so-slightly, so the water drains slowly. We want to watch the fish make their grand exit. But they resist.
It’s as if they’ve forgotten where they came from and where home really is — 75 acres of water below the tipped bucket.
But they fight to stay in an old green bucket.
As water slowly drains life from their home, a dozen fish swim back deeper inside the bucket.
But soon, the water is gone. They have to exit.
And in that moment — a mere breath — each fish moved from fear to freedom, swimming fast and far to a place I couldn’t see. At the exit, they found true life.