Friday, January 8, 2016

the sunrise

THE SUNRISE was pink glaze scraped across lavender gingerbread, a nuclear orange jellybean playing peek-a-boo through the treeline. It was rippling lavender bayou water mirroring the sky’s pink sugar. It was a duo of bluejays reconnoitering overhead, squawking like pterodactyls.
     I’d paddled the canoe to the north end of the lake in the dark. I wanted to be on the water with my camera when the sun first showed its face. And I wanted the water to be rippling photogenically when it did. As the first streaks of pink began to frost the eastern sky, I was already standing in the canoe, ready to start rocking it.
     But the photo session was cut short after only a few shots. When I heard the distant whirring of a motorboat rounding the bend, I switched into drop-everything-you’re-doing-and-focus-on-sitting-down mode. I knew that the waves from the passing boat might easily tip me over if I stayed standing, so I picked up the paddle I’d laid across the canoe and, camera in one hand, paddle in the other, slowly folded my legs into the shape of a seat and sat.
     Then I clocked the paddle second-hand-style in the bayou water, rotating the canoe until it pointed into the waves, which is how you want to be pointing in such a situation. The approaching boat slowed and slowed again, the whirring of its motor half as loud, then suddenly silent. Now it was coasting toward me, only the sound of the waves meeting my canoe, my paddle clocking the water, and the bluejays’ quizzical squawking. It was Uncle Cheese! I should have guessed it would be another Theriot at that hour of the day.
     “Gangsta,” he called out, and I remembered I was wearing a blue bandanna.
     “Big time,” I said, smiling.
     As the nose of his boat approached me, and also the nose of his face, it was like my grandmother had somehow replaced him for a moment, like Mamom was sitting in that boat instead of him, steering the boat toward me, floating toward me. But it wasn’t my mind playing tricks on me. It was her. I was seeing my grandmother clearly.
     “You hunting?”
     “Hunting pictures.” I showed him my camera. “Somebody’s down that canal though. I heard some shots a while ago.” 
     “Most probably squirrel or rabbit. Or dove.”  
     I once dreamed Uncle Cheese was putting make-up on his face, and as his floating head rotated sideways in the dream it morphed into the floating head of my grandmother. That wasn’t my mind playing tricks on me either. Isn’t that how reality really goes? Isn’t that what ghosts do? Ripple through people?
     He parted a patch of water lilies with his boat and pushed a crab trap overboard. My uncle is an early bird. My father is an early bird. My grandmother was an early bird. I come from a long line of early birds.