What Color, The Water
By Don Barone
"Awake my soul,
awake my soul…"
Dateline: Backyard Gazebo
Tell me, the color of the water.
Tell me, of its color at dawn.
Tell me, of its color at dusk.
Tell me, of its hues.
Tell me, of the color of the wave.
Tell me, of the color of the mist.
Tell me, of the color of your loved ones eyes.
"Lend me your eyes,
I can change what you see…"
Ernest Hemmingway, in the early 1920's started reporting for the Toronto Star…he was all of 20 years old.
Through the years, he wrote 191 columns for the newspaper, columns filed locally in Toronto…and from America and his travels in Europe.
The other day I was reading one of those columns, an unsigned one he filed called, " Are You All Set for the Trout?"
In the column, he wrote this: "It is clear and wide with a pebbly bottom and the water is the color of champagne."
…and the water is the color of champagne.
In college some 30 years ago when I first read this column, to be honest with you, I pretty much just skimmed it. When the instructor asked about it, I tried to shrink into my seat, sat on my hands, didn't make any eye contact, and willed her to pick someone else to provide the answer.
She picked me.
She asked me all of two questions: "What did you think of the column."
The instructor was a friend of mine. Her husband was a Professor and Literary Critic, one of the best on the planet. She knew okay meant I wasn't much impressed with Ernest.
In fact, her husband met and wrote about Hemmingway.
"What was the column about?"
"Wrong…read it again."
I did…had to, suddenly I was being graded on it.
"Did you read it?"
"And it is about…"
"Read it again."
I said nothing, when I looked at her though, she knew I was thinking, “Why are you being a pain in the ass about this?”
It was first semester of Grad school.
I had written a bunch of things in college, got awards, got grants, got a scholarship…graduated Magna Cum Laude…why the big deal with this one Hemmingway column written in the 1920's for goodness sake?
"Read it again."
On the 4th or 5th read…I smiled.
On the 4th or 5th read, I wrote this down on a piece of scrap paper that I still have in my notebooks from college: "It is clear and wide with a pebbly bottom and the water is the color of champagne."
"Did you read it…again?"
"What's it about?"
"…but your soul you must keep,
My children's eyes, are the color of the sea.
One, the sea at dawn.
One, the sea at dusk.
My wife's eyes, are the color of where sea meets sand.
I grew up on the shores of the inland sea we call Lake Erie…Lake Erie to the left of me, Lake Ontario to the right of me.
My favorite color, is Lake Erie.
My favorite color, is Lake Ontario.
It was in 1st grade that I realized that the sky above me, wasn't a mirror. A mirror of the lakes to the right and left of me. To this day I still look at the deep blue sky as a sea above with boats of clouds.
Lake Erie was the first color I touched.
Long Beach, Ontario, Canada…I remember the feeling of sand between my toes as a walked down to the beach, stood for a moment with a cousin my same age, Timmy Long…and then we both stepped in.
I don't know about Timmy, or his brother Mike Long, who was also there as I touched my first color, but when I stepped back out and looked at my feet. I was shocked my feet…were not blue.
Timmy never told me what color was his sea. A few years ago he passed away before I had the chance to ask him.
The next time I see Mike, I will ask him what color his sea…as I'm sure it will be the same color that would have been Timmy's.
I do not know what color the seas are of my children. It is not my place to color their seas; it is only my place to lead them to the shore.
As you take to your boats, for the next tournament.
As you take to your boats, with your child, with your husband, with your wife, what color will be your sea?
You may not believe this from a guy who doesn't fish, but know this from a guy who had to read a Hemmingway column 4 or 5 times, you will fish better if you know what color is your sea.
Take the time to savior your river the color of champagne.
Take the time to touch the color of your lake.
What color, the water.
Be it, the color of your child's eyes.
Be it, the color of your spouse's eyes.
Be it, the color of the eyes who first lead you to the shore.
Hemmingway, knew that color.
What color, the water.
it to be,
the color, of love.
"In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
where you invest your love, you invest your life."
Awake My Soul
Mumford & Sons
To read Hemmingway's Toronto Star column from the 1920's just go here: