Winter, said Garrison Keillor a few weeks ago on his "Prairie Home Companion," has a wonderful way of boiling life down to its simple truths. None of that who-am-I, what's-it-all-about stuff in the dead of winter in Minnesota. Nope, not a lot of room for soul-searching in a mind that's occupied with the rudiments of survival. Winter makes things nice and simple, Keillor says. Who are you? You're a mammal. What's it all about? It's about survival. It's about being alert to the fact that nature is making a serious attempt to kill you.
I always enjoy the bard of Lake Wobegon, and I certainly got a good chuckle from this particular observation. But it also haunts me-that business about nature's serious attempt to kill, in particular. Because, as I write this, nature is making a serious attempt to kill Ink Pot-which sits frozen at the dock, locked solid in ice that must be a foot and a half thick by now. And she looks so . . . ungainly and uncomfortable, with her stern way down low and her bow up out of the water, showing dirty icicle teeth. She looks like some sort of brown-tooth whale breaching the surface. Her stern is low because of a massive ice sculpture that has sprouted from the transom. It has begun to resemble a tree, a translucent bald cypress-tangled roots down at the stern drive, a great gray trunk bulging from the transom and drooping branches running out the dock lines. It would be quite beautiful, actually, if it didn't weigh four hundred pounds and worry the hell out of me.
Procrastination was the problem here. December came and went in a flash. There were magazines to put out, dangling participles to fix, laundry to wash, holidays to celebrate (Christmas is the one with the pumpkins, right? . . . or is it the turkey?). And next thing I knew, it was January and they'd given us Minnesota's winter by mistake and Reed Creek was frozen solid. I know, I know, I should've made time for Inky. I'm a bad, bad boatowner. But what can I do, except keep the engine compartment warm and the bilge clear-and hope they clear up this little misunderstanding about who gets single-digit temperatures and who doesn't.
In the meantime, I'll just go crazy with guilt and worry-which brings me to the one valid complaint I have in all this. Nobody ever warned me before I bought Ink Pot that boat ownership would be so shockingly similar to parenthood, angst-wise. I mean, shouldn't someone have told me about this? At the very least, shouldn't there be a warning label? Surgeon General's Warning: Use of this product may have severe side effects, including an irrational need to be smotheringly overprotective of said product.
I think so. I think federal legislation is the answer. But I can't do anything about it. I have to stay here and keep an eye on my Inky. In fact, even if the ice melts, I think I'll keep her here. Who knows what kind of hooligans they'll put her with at the boatyard. Oy. Better I should keep her right here with Papa.