The great fall ritual
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
Last weekend as I drove south in my little car, I had the feeling that I was swimming against a very powerful tide. I was headed for a weekend of sushi and writing — maybe a glass or two of wine — with four of my girlfriends. On the other side of the highway in the northbound lanes of Interstate 35 was what appeared as an endless stream of oversized pickup trucks towing trailers with ATVs.
Through the windows of the trucks I sometimes caught a glimpse of blaze orange clothing or a plastic cooler. I can’t be sure, but I think it’s safe to say few were outfitted with sashimi or pinot grigio.
It was, of course, the Minnesota fire arms deer opener. Generations of hunters were traveling from their homes to converge in the great north woods for a weekend of — well, whatever it is they do out there. My experience is limited, but as far as I can tell there is a lot more to it than just hunting.
My son gave me a clue. He still talks about his first hunt. No deer were shot, but he says the steaks they cooked over an open fire were the best he’s ever had and he felt he’d been initiated into the secret circle because he sat around in the evenings swapping stories with the guys. He came home dirty, over-tired, but as happy as I’ve ever seen him.
The group of women with whom I spent the weekend has known each other for over almost 40 years. We’ve seen each other through the ups and downs of lives, loves, children and careers. Collectively, we’re a Ph.D in film and television, a corporate accountant, a business consultant and two editors — one for an international publication and me, for a community newspaper. We’re all writers by vocation or avocation and last year we decided to tell the story of our friendship in a collaborative memoir. Last weekend we had one of our quarterly retreats.
Yes, we spent some time writing, but for the most part we did what we have done for almost four decades. We sat around the fire(place), ate our steak (sushi) and swapped stories. What we did is not so far removed from what hunters all over the state were doing — making memories that will be part our common experience for the rest of our lives
When my aunt died about 10 years ago, my mom was the last remaining member of her family of origin. My mother became the sole carrier of the memories of her childhood and young adult experiences. No one else had been there, seen what she had seen and known her family in the way that she and her sister had. Because they moved often, my aunt was one of few constants in my mom’s life. I was sad for the loss of my aunt, but sadder for my mother. Someone had let go of the string and she was like a balloon released into the vastness of the sky.
The older I get, the more grateful I am for the people that hold the strings in my life. They keep me from going too far afield and remind me of who I am and where I come from. To some degree, most of us need to feel tethered to something or someone. I’m just glad that the rituals of my string-holders include fluffy slippers and indoor plumbing. I just can’t wear blaze orange. It clashes with my hair color.