Sunday, September 5, 2010


No one wanted to help. Except Kayla. She walked through grandma and grandpa's woods with me and held my hand. We found the L.L. Bean hammock frame where we had left it more than a year ago before cancer. A year ago, Kayla and I had camped the ridge overlooking Green Bay. Just the two of us and our dog Katie. While we snuggled on camp rest mattresses inside our sleeping bags, Katie was tied to the hammock frame. She chewed the cotton webbing to shreds from the groundside up. This year, post transplant, walked to the ridge together. Katie is on a farm in Bailey's Harbor herding sheep. We found the hammock disassembled in five pieces. It had been taken down by a visiting family member from off island who figured leaving a hammock neglected on the west shore courted liability. The Island visitor dispersed the rocks of our fire pit also. Perhaps it was better that the other children weren't with Kayla and me to see the place of memorable family gatherings disseminated. We bowed to the earth, each of us reaching for a heavy metal pole. We had come to reclaim the hammock frame. I directed Kayla to the lighter cross-bar members but even with the smaller pieces, she would tote more than 10 pounds. We carried the poles over leaves, downed branches and roots toward the road. After five minutes of forward march, I propped my pipe against a tree, accepted her piece and rested it against a stump. I took her hand and headed back for the pieces we had left behind. "When I walked the Methye Portage I took the canoe on my shoulders as far as I could carry and set it down," I explained. "Rested on my way back for the next load. Picked up a pack and carried it forward and past the canoe until I couldn't carry it any more and set the pack on the ground and rested on the walk back for the next batch." "What's the Methye?" asked Kayla. "A 13-mile carry between the Mackenzie River watershed and the Churchill River, over the height of land," I said. "I played leap frog with my pack and canoe," I explained, trying to give Kayla an image that would explain my plan. "I played leap frog with Korrina once," Kayla reported. "I couldn't jump over her," Kayla laughed. We made the turn around, rested on the return walk and picked up another load. Sometimes she carried a hammock pole to the next resting point, sometimes she didn't carry any piece of the appliance and just walked with me holding hands so that I didn't fall. When she didn't have hold of my hand, I used a hammock pole like an unweildy cane. A bone marrow transplant patient and a seven-year-old trudging in the forest understory, companions weighted with metal pipes. "Now we have to set the pipes against the tree, far enough into the air so that we don't miss it in the underbrush. If we put the pipe on the ground and then start back for it, we may not see it or walk off our trail, " I said. "And, we have to put the pipes on the far side of the tree so we can see where we rested it as we walk back. If we put the pipe on the side of the tree from where we came from, we may not see it as we come back looking." She didn't need all the instructions and reasons why. Kayla was content holding hands and helping me more than she knew. Forward and back, forward and back for more than half an hour before we reached the road with all pieces of the hammock accounted for. We retrieved our car. I drove us home to assemble the hammock in the front yard under the big tree where grandpa Lloyd used to rest with great uncle Del looking up at the leaves. Kayla and I steadied and balanced the hammock to lay down together. We took in the view -- straight up.

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