Our Father

Our Father didn’t do a lot of talking. He was a doer, a man of action. He built things, he made things, he planted gardens, he hunted, he fished. He was curious and bold.

Our father had a way of looking at the world. Not the political world, or the social world, or the world of popular culture. He looked at the world, as in the Earth. He looked at trees and insects and weather as interrelated. He stopped to admire cocoons and anthills. He noticed things.

Our father was quiet. Taciturn. But he was always thinking. He read books and smoked a pipe. He had a great moustache. He taught us how to sail boats, and tie lures and track game. He taught us to fix things when they got broken and that almost any problem could be solved. He taught us to try everything you think is possible and that it’s okay to fail, and fail spectacularly. I’ll tell you one story.

Our father had the idea that he would make his own maple syrup. He scoped out a grove of maple trees and hand-crafted dozens of little tree taps out of copper tubing. He rigged up dozens of coffee cans with wire handles and one morning, at dawn, we set out to tap maple trees. He hammered the taps into the bases of the trees and hung the collection pails and we waited for the sap to rise. At first it came out in slow, disappointing drips but by afternoon his tiny spigots were gushing steady and every can overflowed.

He brought all the sap home and filled every stock pot to the rim. He had gallons of the stuff and he simmered it all night. By the next day we knew something was wrong. The taste and the smell was off. We weren’t going to be having that lavish pancake breakfast. He tapped the wrong variety of tree. They were maples, but they weren’t sugar maples. The kitchen and stove were a huge, sticky mess. Dozens of hours wasted. But the point was, he tried. He had a vision and saw it through.

Here I am talking about our father in the past tense as if he was dead. He’s very much alive. He talks more now, which is good. But he’s still tinkering, still making things, ever-curious and resourceful. I get that from him.

Our father taught us to pay close attention to the smallest of things. He taught us how to be still and listen. He taught us the power of an idea and the power of failure. The lessons and values he embodies manifest in my daily life. He’s far from me in miles, but very close in spirit. And now he has a smart phone. So every time he sees an owl, or a hawk’s nest, or has some wild new idea, he can share it with me.

I’m a father myself now so I know how important it is to model not just behavior but attitude, a world view. Parents think they pass down specific ideas and philosophies – and they do but I think it’s more about tone. You sort of pass down an aura. Our father’s aura was/is deeply imbued with nature, animals, geography, botany and an insatiable curiosity for all things living. I use his gifts every moment of every day and he is very much a part of me.

Thank you dad, for being you.

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