My friend and co-worker Mary Russell wrote a contribution for this month’s Session, which I’m posting here.
In the third circle of my life mandela, I married an Episcopal priest (why that little detail matters will become clear) who rarely shed his roles as priest and psychotherapist (I almost left the ‘therapist’ off that last word). However, my father introduced the two of us to his favorite place to fish, in the land of lakes in Eastern Ontario. He’d gone there for years with friends to fish and be one of the guys; my mother didn’t go for outdoor activities, so it was his place. So new husband John and I ended up buying a 45 year old house with four bedrooms, just inside (but private property) the lovely fishing ‘resort’ called Kirk Kove. Our house was up on a small hill and the screened porch overlooked the lake and we both felt a bit like the king and queen of the hill. And John was no longer trapped in his roles. We’d go for several weeks each summer, sometimes not all at once, and the kids (4 of ‘his’, 2 of ‘mine’) grew up as a ‘Kirk Kove kid’–definitely an honorific, and they learned to water ski and to survive the jump from Tarzan Rock.
Every Sunday that we were there, we’d pack at least one boat (we had a 16-ft fishing boat with a center console, “Tramp”, and my Dad had a 12- or 13-ft aluminum boat) with picnic gear, a grill, lawn chairs, large plastic bags to gather trash that uncaring people had left; John would take his Communion kit, Bible and Book of Common Prayer, and we’d set out for Church Island, about a 15- minutes ride in Tramp and almost twice that in Dad’s boat. Once there with unloaded boat, settle in, set up what needed setting up and the kids were sent to gather their offering for our Eucharist. On one side of the island was a large flat-ish rock that served as an Altar, and several stones that provided adequate seating for all that were there. It was always far more meaningful a time in church than at any other place. The were cathedral- tall conifers, the clean, pure air, and the sussurations of the lake transformed the humble island into a holy and deeply spiritual place.
Wait, you say, wait! I thought this was supposed to have something to do with beer! Where’s the beer?!
O impatient readers! To tell a good beer story, one must first set the stage. How else would you appreciate the situation, if you cannot imagine yourself there. So, back up, put yourself on that island, having completed the Eucharist, and now you’re ready to eat. Well, almost ready. The fish have to be caught. So, John and the kids went to get lunch while Mom (me) stayed behind and got the accompanying food out and usually had time for a short nap. Boy, there’s nothing like lying under the trees, dappling light and whispering pines for company, hearing an occasional voice from the boat that told me a fish had been caught. Once enough were caught, they headed to shore and John fileted the catch.
At this point it was time for a beer for the two adults and soda for the kids. We drank either Labatt’s Blue or Molsen’s Golden, both purchased at the beer store in Canada, where the beer bears little resemblance to what’s exported to the U.S. Meaning it’s far better, with little higher alcohol content, and an indefinable ‘betterness’, perhaps the water. Add to that the place, the atmosphere, the odor of frying fish that had just been caught, and you might reach nirvana! Well, I’m allergic to fish, so I’d bring a hot dog and feel just as blessed, but of course I wasn’t allergic to beer.
One Sunday after we’d been going to Church Island for several years, I realized that we’d forgotten to include a church key, so we couldn’t open the bottles of beer. OH NO!! HORRORS! It was at least a half hour round trip back to the house, closer to 45 minutes, and we couldn’t wait that long. We were starving! Lunch was cooking and almost ready to eat! Scott, the youngest of the bunch of kids and my second son, saw a light bulb go on over his head, ran to his tool box, and held up a church key! We were saved!! So I did the unthinkable for a parent of a 12 year old boy—I gave him a bottle of Blue to drink. The whole bottle. Then I asked why he carried a church key!
So—Labatt’s Blue will forever have a special place in my heart. It was what I drank at Church Island, it was what I drank when John and I sat out on the porch rehearsing our folk songs for the next Talent Night at the Kove rec room, and it was what we took in the boat when we went fishing anywhere in the lake, keeping it cool in the lake as we fished. What’s funny is that I have no memory of ever feeling really high when we were there at Kirk Kove. Not from beer, anyway.
I can’t get Labatt’s in California, but whenever I go back to Western New York, I belly up to the bar at Scott and Patti’s Stockman’s Tavern, and I treat myself to couple of drafts of Blue or Blue Light. Oh, man, life is good!