The morning sun was still a lazy pink haze in the eastern sky when she pushed away from the dock and rowed a short way into deeper water. Several vigorous pulls started the Mercury outboard, and the lady disappeared into the morning mist; motoring out of the shallow bay, out to the waters of Lake Ontario for a day of fishing.
The night rain had cooled the air that was now lifting the mist off the still waters of the bay. The lady surveyed the array of wooden boats that lingered in the shallow water of their slips. After paying the marina the day rental, she wisely chose the boat with the least leakage, for they all leaked. She wore a light quilted jacket against the morning chill, and dungaree pants with flannel inside; the cuffs were rolled up exposing the colorful lining. A kerchief wrapped her head and was tied tightly under her chin, framing her tanned countenance.
She made her way down the rickety dock, carrying an outboard motor in one hand. The other hand grasped a basket that held an infant generously wrapped in blankets. She placed the baby in the bow of the boat, hoisted the motor into the boat and bolted it to the stern. She returned to her car to gather fishing poles, bait, a thermos of coffee, and the reserve gas can.
This was her domain. She was at home on the vast inland sea. She loved the water and she loved to fish. The vagaries of wind and waves did not frighten her. And she would travel in small boats on that great lake to places few lone men and no women would venture, while in her solitude, save the little child in the basket, rocking in the bow of the boat.
The men at the marina would shake their heads and wonder at the lone woman and her infant in the basket so far out to sea, all alone. At the end of the day she would return to the marina with a stringer full of fish, while many of the men would return empty handed. Then over their beer they would talk about the lady with the baby who ventured out to the big lake alone and returned always with fish.
But there would be no acrimony in their talk, no derisive tones would their inflection reveal. They admired and respected the lady. For she possessed a pleasant nature, without haughtiness or brazen pride, with a quietude and kindliness that made her courageous watery treks even more admirable to the men who knew the lake. They knew its propensity for rage and its uncompromising impetuosity.
But the lady was adept at handling a small craft. She could row a straight and true course, meet large waves at just the right angle, and bring a boat to dock in a smooth and graceful manner. And she could sense the eminent changes in the weather as her eyes darted about the skies and her face lifted to feel the wind.
But it was not her ability to catch fish, nor her handling of watercraft, or her knowledge of the weather that the men admired. It was her freedom; they admired the grace and dignity with which she pursued the things she loved.
She was a truly liberated woman. A liberation that grew out of love, the love of fishing and water. She harbored a sense of freedom that grew from inside her and all around her. Like all heroes, she was able to overcome a force greater than herself. And like all heroes, she was driven by love; love of life, a life she had chosen. Her freedom was not wrangled forcibly from the clutches of oppressors with masculine posturing, but was gently gathered up through feminine determination and perseverance.
I learned all I needed to learn about life from this lady, my hero. I learned to appreciate the beauty of nature; to embrace the challenges that lie within and without; and to always follow my dreams. But mostly she taught me a lot about women, and a lot about freedom. You see, I was that little baby, in the basket, in the bow of the boat.