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Aboard Badger

The historic ferry steamed east against the rising chop, its coal-burning engines leaving a brown haze above the wake.

This wasn’t my first crossing aboard the Badger. She still had the old wooden ship’s wheel in place for the seafaring imaginations of children. On the outbound voyage, I had taken the spokes in my hands again, intrepid captain defying the late season storm to bring my passengers to port.

The main room, bright and loud with announcements of impending bingo games didn’t suit my mood, so I stepped away to a bench with a view astern. Throughout the afternoon, I watched the changing play of light on water while trying to judge the Beaufort scale of the wind by the texture of the swells.

Off the starboard beam, the odd blue beneath the overcast probably meant that my uncle was going through a storm at his place. These days, journeys are more going-away than arriving, perhaps because even frequently revisited places show change.

On the mornings I’d awakened in my uncle’s house, the view across the road toward the lake was blocked by new buildings and pines that hadn’t been part of the memories I packed in my luggage. With its change of paint, plus the alteration of the upstairs porch, what had been my grandfather’s house looked utterly different.

I was a different person; as obvious, simple, and complex as that recognition can be. Propelled by the need to see, I saw that my memories no longer matched. What to do, but set course away?

I am a different person, and this I’ve learned: When sailing through chop, shift your gaze from the deck underfoot; look out, where the mist beside the hull just might be creating rainbows.Badger rainbow


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