by Yiscah Bracha
Loren had a date to paddle on Lake Hiawatha, Sunday at sunset. His companions decided to keep the date, and word spread through the community. The ingathering of people and boats was like the early morning gathering at the park building on Powderhorn Lake to set up the Sun Flotilla at the culmination of MayDay. It was like the gathering of people and boats on the last Thursday of March each year, to paddle the Cannon and Mississippi Rivers, from Cannon Falls to Red Wing. And numerous other canoe gatherings.
We greeted with sobs and hugs. Lisa had brought boxes of hats from his enormous collection, and Loren headgear spread into the world. Some had brought canoe mounts he had made. Most everyone wore red, so that every time you saw movement in the corner of your eye, you thought that Loren was there. We laughed, we cried, we launched the boats. A long spread out stream circled the lake, with plaintive tunes from the trombones and trumpets rippling over the water. The boats got closer together the second time we rounded the lake. A blast from a conch shell rang out and the drums responded – the built drums, so like the ones he built, with the skins he got from the tanner in Cosmos, MN. But also using the rims and the sides of the canoes as drums, the way he would use anything that he could beat.
Clusters of boats gathered as the occupants held hands and talked. Then the clusters dispersed and reformed. It had been cloudy and drizzly all day, but just like the miracles that so often happened on MayDay, the sun broke through just as we were about to launch the boats. It was low in the sky by then, streaming through the slim gap between the marbled clouds above and the horizon of newly tinted trees below. By the time the clusters of boats on the lake gathered and dispersed, and gathered and dispersed, a full rainbowed sunset was underway.
Finally, a cluster of all the boats formed in the middle of the lake. Silence. Someone started to sing, others joined in. That song ended, another began. Silence again. Someone tapped a low rumble of a drumbeat, others joined in. Silence again. Many colors of gray and slate, on the water and in the sky. Someone passed a burning cigar of sage, and the pungent aroma enveloped us. Tears. Finally, someone shouted: “Hallelujah Loren!”, and we all shouted, and banged the canoes and drums, and yelled to the sky.
It is exactly the way he wanted it. We will miss him dearly, but he has left so much behind, that elements of his spirit will always remain in the world.