We were in a canoe paddling towards the middle of the lake. The sky and water were blue as the blue in a Maxfield Parrish painting. I looked down and it seemed I could see forever into the depths of the lake. And I wondered -- what would it be like to lose something -- something of great value -- right here in the middle of the lake? What would it be like if my wedding band slipped off my finger into the lake?
It would be lost the moment it hit the water.
Even if I immediately dove in after the ring it would sink faster and deeper than I could swim. But I would be able to clearly see it as it sank -- for a long time. That's the terrible part. To see it fall away with absolute clarity -- sunlight glinting off the gold as it rapidly receded farther and further into the depths -- finally passing deeper than light can penetrate -- and then -- wink out of existence.
As we paddled back to shore a small wave of sadness hit. Not about the hypothetical loss of a ring -- but about all the things we've lost -- clearly lost -- things that are quickly receding into an irrevocable irretrievable past.
Yeah. Those are the kinds of happy bunny thoughts I have when we're on vacation. Imagine what's banging around inside my head when I'm stuck in my room reading the news.
What triggered the hypothetical loss of my ring while paddling my wife and son across Lake Crescent was thinking about the then upcoming anniversary of John F. Kennedy's murder. Again -- who thinks about assassinations in the middle of Nature's Grandeur? And why?
To set the record straight -- I was thinking about all kinds of things while we were out on the lake. My mind was drifting around just like the canoe. The stuff that bubbled up to the top wasn't in any order. I hadn't been dwelling on anything in particular that morning. So why did Kennedy's murder pop up at all?
Because it's "down there" that's why. All sorts of things are.
In the mid-morning of Friday, November 22, 1963, my seventh grade class had just returned from the auditorium where our class pictures had been taken. The teacher, a super-strict Dominican nun, was trying to get us back at our desks so the day's routine would get back onto her inflexible timetable. The classroom door opened and another nun swooped into the room and began furiously whispering to our teacher. They both turned to the class and my teacher told us she had to leave for a moment and we were to fold our hands upon our desks and sit quietly until she returned.
They both left and nobody dared to sit un-quietly. No one wanted to tap into the wrath of Nun-zilla. She had two modes: simmering tolerance and Vesuvius. We had all learned to follow her dictates if we didn't want to end up like the crispy denizens of ancient Pompeii. Some nuns were quick to slash with the wicked end of a rapier-like ruler. Others could have benefited from mandatory anger management courses. But my seventh grade teacher should have been shot with a tranquilizer gun, chained to the wall, and exorcised.
She returned with the janitor pushing a television bolted to a rolling metal cabinet. He plugged it in, turned it on, adjusted the rabbit ears, and turned the channel selector to Seattle's CBS affiliate just in time to hear Walter Cronkite announce that JFK had died. School was dismissed early that Friday.
We all went home in a state of shock. The world had changed and no one knew what the new world was going to be like. Everything looked the same but there were new rules in this new world. The President of The United States, supposedly one of the most protected men in the world, could be killed by a "lone nut" warehouse worker who made $1.25/hr.
My family spent the rest of Friday and all day Saturday in front of our black and white Zenith television set. The "regularly scheduled programs" were preempted by the assassination story. The President went to Dallas. Lee Harvey Oswald killed him. The President went to Dallas. Lee Harvey Oswald killed him. The President went to Dallas. Lee Harvey Oswald killed him.
We watched the same story over and over again until it was completely and absolutely indelibly etched into our brains. The President went to Dallas. Lee Harvey Oswald killed him.