to the small poem and the quiet voice within

norbert blei | my red rowboat


Editor’s Note: Pardon my imposition on this page, but what I have to say today best belongs on Basho’s Road.

How does that old song go about “the first part of the journey”? I will have completed the second long of this particular journey through Noman’s Land on Thursday. Rest a while. Begin my annual writing workshop at The Clearing the week of June 13th Expect few postings on any of my sites that week, but stay with me. Go into the rich archives Monsieur K. has maintained so diligently, brilliantly…so much good material to enjoy again and again. Sometime, probably July, the third leg of the journey—surgery.

I have received hundreds of wonderful get well cards, e-mails, messages, phone calls…visits, gifts. It’s impossible at this point to thank you all. But I do. Really do.

In the mail yesterday, a drawing from a good friend of mine, dog artist, cartoonist, Mike McCartney ( ) whose work always makes me smile, who has a local, national, international following, who lives and draws and with his wife, Dede, runs his ‘drawing-dogs-business’ here in Door. I thought sharing a little of his gift with readers by why of Thanks. Bless you all.

In the woods, near my coop, sits a rowboat, gradually returning to earth. I used to haul it down to the little lake at the end of my road, and ‘escape’ on summer afternoons. “Gone fishin’.” Only I was not much of a fisherman after the kids left—or ever for that matter. But I still loved that heavy wooden boat. Loved rowing it, out to the middle of the lake with books and notebooks, and tossing a concrete block anchor attached to an old rope, Kerplunk!…ahhhh. And drift.

I was a Zen fisherman. A casting rod, some small weights, a red and white bobber—and a hook with no bait. I liked to watch the ripples the bobber made in the blue water. I liked to watch the fish, swimming so beautifully, aglow in their own element. Most of all, I waited for the moment the sky fell upon the water—and I was gone. Emptiness. Nowhere. Everywhere.

Mike reminded me of my old life on water.

adrift now in a sea of grass,
trees, dead leaves and wildflowers,
my red rowboat

–norbert blei


  1. Monsieur K.

    Dear Norbert,
    always, always a great joy working with you.
    Cheers and try to get the red boat to water again.

  2. Paula Hedeen

    Just wanted you to know I’m thinking and praying for you daily Norb. Hope things are coming along better each passing day.


    Friday will be a good day!

  4. Judith Wiker

    AHHH a lovely vision to behold…on to the next adventure!

  5. David Dix

    I had a rotting boat like that at a cottage near Pembine. I cut it in half, reinforced it with shelves and used it a long time for an outside curio-catch-all by the back screen door.

    Old wooden rowboats, yes. Don’t let them go.

    The best to you!


  6. Jackie

    I love this–the cartoon yes, but the photo of the rowboat returning to earth is special; hooray for the little poem ‘
    the little rowboat and the army that is waging against the enemy in your body.

  7. Barbara Fitz Vroman

    “I took my boat a’sailin’
    a’ailin’ on the sea…” Was that Robert Louis Stevenson?
    And how did the rest go?”

    With all the writing, pictures, poetry, paintings…you take us sailing Norbert Blei, on myriad adventures, sometimes dark and troubling waters, sometimes for a wild romp of whitewater and cateracts, sometimes for romantic vistas of sunsets streaming into placid waters, and sometimes
    we just stop to wade and watch the frogs.

    Thank you for the trips.

    Barbara Fitz Vroman

  8. ad winans

    Makes me want to drive out to Stow Lake and rent one of the row boats there. A friend of mine had an old one, but he let it rot over time, but not before we took it out a few times and enjoyed a peaceful day on the water. Never could fish. I’d toss them back in anyway.

    Peace be with you.


  9. Bonnie Hartmann

    Dear Norb,
    My thoughts “drift toward you” many times a week..
    My fishing experience is much like yours, a good excuse to be ON the water and drift…and rest.
    Wishing you as much peace as you can muster, and strength for the surgery.
    You will soon be well.
    Bonnie Hartmann

  10. Gwen Layne

    Dear Norb,
    Now that’s the way to float your boat!

  11. Alice D'Alessio

    What a wonderful piece! The photo, the red boat, the poem, your incredible spirit…Blessings on your last day of treatments, and best wishes for the week ahead. We’re all in this together!

  12. George Bisbee

    Don’t worry about the boat going to earth. You were a good steward and it served you well. I can see another beside it. I’ll drag it to the water for you. Let’s fish.

  13. Patty Williamson

    Dear Norb,
    You are the voice of tranquility, of strength, of beauty, of humor, of Door County. We need that voice.
    Get well soon.


  14. Edd Tomse

    Dear Norb,

    What a wonderful reminder of times past! The old red rowboat which you let me use when Marianne and I came up with our kids. We had a great time with our families.

    How are things going? I’m sorry to hear that you need another operation. I Had quad bypass surgery two weeks ago so I’m in recovery mode too. Getting old is getting more difficult each year!

    Best regards for a full recovery.

    Edd Tomse

  15. Jean Casey

    When I was a kid, we had one of those derelicts in our front yard on Lake Winnebago, My impetuous mother filled it with leaves one fall day and lit it on fire. It wasn’t red until the flames licked it. Call the SBLG Fire Department before you consider her possibility.

  16. Ralph Murre

    Calm sea and prosperous voyage, Norb; from one crude red boatman to another.

    Now, row like hell!

    ~ Ralph

  17. Don

    Beautiful, as you always are, Norb. Cheers and love. Don

  18. Loveda Dumore X.

    Many times remember long nights under stars middle in the lake with long rod with bobber no hook in water and long rod other place my God my dearest still Norb make beautiful still all special words from old red boat new papers everywheres. Loving Yes Always, Loveda

  19. Tom Amberg

    One of my fondest fishing memories is the morning I stood on the Liberty Park Lodge pier with my old bamboo pole in hand guiding an empty hook through the water while trying to strike up a conversation with a very attractive woman who was sitting on the pier. 36+ years later, after much personal illness but with many very good days together with this beautiful woman always at my side, I can honestly say that it was a very successful fishing day. One year later this wonderful woman, Judith, became my loving wife, and has always stood beside me in sickness and in health. We wish you quick healing and much good health. We miss you.

    Take very good care my friend,

    Judy and Tom Amberg

  20. Ed Markowski

















  21. Judith Amberg

    Norb, thanks for sharing the delightful drawing and thoughtful reflection. I saw your e-mail early yesterday and thought about it during the day. When I came back to write a comment, I saw Tom already wrote the very thing that came to mind when you described fishing “with no bait.” Ditto to his good wishes.

    Judy, the grateful proud wife of ” the man who loves Sister Bay”

  22. Dick Finch

    Norb …. An old red rowboat announces the entrance to my wife’s family cottage in Door County. Built by her grandfather and harboring flowers, it is labeled with the Scottish family name brought to Wisconsin by her sea-captain great-grandfather sailing the Atlantic and Great Lakes. There is something spiritual about these old red rowboats!

  23. Robert Schuler

    Dear Norbert,
    My best to you. I have always enjoyed your work. I hope your surgery has gone well. I very much appreciate your comments on Hummingbird and your praise of my work.
    I would like to send you my latest work. Please send me your address.
    my very best wishes, Robert Schuler

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