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A Renowned Boyhood

Zen. A word often used and rarely known. I do not know it any more than most anybody else, but I use it less than many I know. Zen? Ah, another image sought after like a loud car or a giant suburban home. Sought after by others. I won't claim to know Zen. I won't claim to know any way to achieve it. I won't claim anything except that I know it is in each of us and you do not go looking for it you merely let it out.


My own experiences are far from Zen in the moment and nothing less in retrospect. A rain shower that sweeps over an alleyway, I hear it from my kitchen but neither feel the heavy wet nor see the white streaks across the light of the street lamps. Afterwards, the asphalt is clean and the air pure.

I go to bed in my sleeping bag on a campsite on Burntside Lake beside my best friend. The wind has roared down on us from the south all afternoon and all evening. It fueled our fire for dinner so fiercely that we used a lot of wood just trying to keep good flames to cook with. Though it is September in northern Minnesota, the night never gets cold. The wind blows dry warm air all night. We sleep with the tent windows half-open and the wind comes and goes and swirls around us.

When I awake in the morning the wind is still blowing. With our wood supply a finite thing now, we bring the canoe up from by the water to serve as a wind block by the fire ring. It serves admirably. Ryan and I sit on good stumps across the fire from each other and first boil water for coffee and then begin our breakfast.

First, it is French Toast. Plenty of it. Cinnamon and nutmeg in the batter. Plenty of syrup. Eating two at a time right off the griddle. The wind still blowing. Then scrambled eggs. The griddle is so hot when we put them on that they end up a little more like omelets but with no special ingredients except the flavor of the griddle and the fire and the pines. We end it with bacon. Again, plenty of it. It fries down from big juicy strips to delicious crispy bites. All of this is washed down with black coffee, Tanzanian Peaberry from The Bean Factory transported these many miles, drunk straight from our Nalgene bottles.


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