The power of nature
Recently, my brother had the occasion to send me a link to a YouTube video featuring Carole King singing her hit “Up on the Roof,” in 2005, on her “Welcome to My Living Room” DVD.
Remember DVDs? How about Carole King? How about The Drifters? That’s the group that first recorded “Up on the Roof” in 1962 after King wrote it with her husband Gerry Goffin.
But I digress. Anyway, the link to the video came in a flurry of texts between my brother and sister and I as we discussed living in the aftermath of death. He and I had recently lost our mothers-in-law. Our sister was in town to attend the funeral of a high school friend.
Their initial texts interrupted me while I was cutting the grass, when I probably should have been doing something else. Goose and teal seasons had just opened, and fall fishing was quite hot. Friends were calling and texting to ask if I’d been out, and they were sending reports on how they’d been doing.
But back to the roof. In that song, King wrote and sang about going out on the roof of her New York apartment building, and how that space allowed her to relax. Her lyric, “I climb way up to the top of the stairs, and all my cares just drift right into space,” reminded me of how I’ve felt when setting off in a canoe in the dark, getting ready to set up for ducks. On the water, the instant the paddle cuts through the water’s surface, I feel as if all of my cares are sucked out of the blade and into the river.
As hunters, fishermen, trappers, hikers, campers – we routinely lighten our mental load when we’re doing what we love to do. Many, many outdoorsmen have written about the recuperative powers of being outdoors. I’m luckier than most, maybe, because I live in a place where I can be hunting or fishing within 30 minutes, tops. But really, anyone in Michigan isn’t far from a place that helps us forget about our cares in short order, no matter whether we’re carrying a gun or fishing rod, a beach blanket or a lunch box.
Several years ago, I wrote a Mother’s Day column for Michigan Outdoor News that addressed how my mother helped promote her children’s outdoor interests. She didn’t hunt with us, but she got up early to get us breakfast and lunch. She knew we enjoyed hunting and fishing with our dad, and that brought her joy.
My mother-in-law felt the same way, always inquiring whether I’d been out hunting or fishing, because she knew I lived for it. Even the day before she died, her breath growing scarce, she asked if I’d been goose hunting.
She enjoyed the outdoors, but for her, that enjoyment came on a Lake Superior beach, where she swam from Memorial Day to Labor Day, often later. I think she would say that her cares drifted off into the lake through her feet when she stepped in that water or leaned back in her lawn chair in the sun and stuck her toes in the sand.
On the beach or in the goose marsh, we both knew what Carole King was feeling up on the roof.