Written October 22, 2007
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water
Jill forgot her birth control
And now they have a daughter
I came from the Adirondacks. My parents had decided against having children because – in 1942 – they were convinced that there was not a bright enough future for children on this planet. That plan was undone when the two of them took a vacation in the late summer of 1944 at a rustic resort called “The Mohawk” on Fourth Lake, and my mother forgot to pack her birth control. Maybe my humble beginnings in that place of wildness and natural beauty explain in part why I ended up living where I do.
The Adirondack “Park,” as it is rightly or wrongly named, remained a special place for this family my parents created (which later included the addition of three foster daughters). Our summer vacations were spent there in tents, around campfires and in canoes or on trails; our winters always included ski trips to Old Forge or Whiteface Mountain.
To me, the Adirondacks represented heaven, and so when all that eventually remained of my parents was a pair of ash-filled plastic bags, our favorite camping place was the natural choice for freeing those remains. In August of 1999, close family and two dear life-long friends gathered at Brown’s Tract Ponds.
The chosen morning dawned wet. My father always claimed there were only two kinds of Adirondack weather, “dazzling uncertainty, and drizzling certainty,” and his description held true as the gray downpour abruptly gave way to beautiful sunshine in mid-afternoon. The canoe served as a water taxi for our small band of eight, our elderly friends making the trip with both arthritic difficulty and characteristic grace. Once assembled, in a very unplanned sort of ceremony, we scattered those gray remains from the rocks on the small island’s south shore where we had picnicked and swam so many times over the years. It all seemed very right.
Our mission accomplished, the first of the return trips was begun. Bekir and Sallie were helped into the canoe and Husband and I started paddling toward the mainland. Spontaneously, Bekir began yodeling my father’s favorite, the pure beauty of his alpine tribute soaring across the still lake and echoing back to us. It was the perfect salute, and I am certain that every person within earshot stood still to listen.
Eight years have passed, and I haven’t been back there. I always thought I’d return, but lack of time and too many responsibilities – or maybe just a failure to properly prioritize my life – had combined to stall my return until two weeks ago when a week-long photography workshop at Big Moose Lake just a few miles from Brown’s Tract put the opportunity squarely in my sights. On October 6th, the 17th anniversary of the date of my father’s death, I returned to the shore of Brown’s Tract.
It was fall and the campers were gone. I expected to be completely alone, but to my surprise, there was a lone photographer beside the lake’s outlet where I planned to launch. I’m pretty uninhibited and friendly with strangers, and those you meet in the solitude of the woods are usually kindred spirits, so we struck up a conversation. The emotions of that day probably greased my tongue even more than usual as I explained my reasons for being there. “I’m going to mess up your lake,” I told him. It was still and all-reflecting, and I knew my paddling would disturb any reflection shots he was attempting to take. His reply was an enthusiastic, “Oh, no, your blue kayak will be great on the water!” We exchanged blog addresses, wished each other well, I put the kayak into the lake and began the final leg of my trip to pay respects to Bill Toporcer and Evelyn Andrus, my parents.
Photograph by Russ Devan
My parents gave me the gift of life and the self-assurance that has helped me to make the best of my time here, and it seems that even years after their deaths they continue to give to me, for on that Saturday two weeks ago they introduced me to a new friend and a very talented photographer.
Thank you, Russ, for this photograph that I will always cherish. And thank you, dear readers, for taking the time to travel back with me to this special place.