Monday, May 9, 2011

Inadvertent fine advice

On Saturday Jen and I took her inflatable raft out on Cranberry Lake. After drifting around and watching the swifts race each other in erratic loops a while, we pulled up to a stone ridge rising up from the edge of the lake. I made up my mind to climb it.

I removed my shoes and hopped out of the boat. Jen, the more experienced climber between us, stayed behind as a spotter -- and to keep the boat from getting pulled into the middle of the lake, of course.

It wasn't that difficult a climb -- only twenty feet or so from the pond surface to the summit, footholds everywhere, and by no means a sheer surface -- but still sufficiently high above the rocks in the shallows that a fall would cost me the use of my legs a good while.

About 3/4 of the way up, I stalled, having reached a position where there was no safe way to proceed. Moving either foot up to the fold at my left would throw off my balance and cost me my wright handhold. Making a grab for the stone a foot or two above my right hand would mean sacrificing my footing, and I could see no obvious place to move my other hand during that crucial half-second of weightlessness between grips. And my present position was taking considerable effort to maintain...

Observing this, Jen called up to me from the raft.

"Pat! Be sure to do the right thing."

She said it so unexpectedly -- at just such a moment, and with such a peculiar weight of meaning that I had to laugh.

I clambered back down a few feet and took an alternate route to the right, and gained the summit within twenty seconds.

Be sure to do the right thing.

The far side of the ridge sloped into a rocky hill with a footpath leading to the rim of the lake, where Jen was waiting for me.

"Thanks for the advice," I told her. "I'll remember it."

Jen looked puzzled. "Huh?"

"Be sure to do the right thing."

She stared back at me for a second. Her face went a little red.

"Wait, what? That isn't what I -- I was talking about the rocks."

"Nevertheless, thanks."

"Get in the boat, weirdo."

I sometimes suspect Jen is a bodhisattva -- a soul who has achieved nirvana during a previous life, but elects to return to the cycle of suffering through birth and death in order to help others find the truth.

("And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh." - Friedrich Nietzsche)

A few minutes later, the raft began deflating when when the duct tape Jen had used to patch a leak came loose. She took both oars, thrust an air pump into my hands, and sped us towards the shore while I frantically fed air to the boat to keep it from sinking.

I'm not sure if there's a simple universal truth to be inferred from that incident, but it was certainly funny.

(Sometimes I wonder at the vagueness of the partition between the absurd and the true.)


  1. For some reason I'm suddenly reminded of a quote by Carrie Fisher of all people.

    "If my life weren't funny it would just be true. And that is completely unacceptable."

    Don't know why, it just popped up.

  2. With all due respect to Ms. Fisher, I believe her thinking is a bit sideways. "If my life weren't funny, it wouldn't be true -- and that is unacceptable."