This afternoon I was torn– should I take a nap, or maybe work in the studio, or grab a last perfect warm day to go out in my kayak. I’m so grateful my sense of adventure called out to me and I loaded up the kayak. It’s Indian Summer here. Seventy degree days, and forty-ish nights. A few lovely colored leaves, but mostly green. Winter is slipping up on us, behind our backs.
I wore layers, and took only a camera, a sketchbook and an apple. Once there– at Mountain Island Lake, the boat slipped easily into the water, and I set off at a leisurely pace, shucking some layers to bask. The light lured me–its extremes of bright and dark. The shadows were bluer and the sunlight yellower than normal. I took a few easy strokes and let the currents drive me into my favorite cove.
Nobody except two other kayakers seemed to be on the whole immense lake, and we were all bent on the same thing– the zen paddle. One paddler had her dog trained to stand on the back deck of her kayak, and they toured the opposite bank. Another appeared to be napping in the middle of the lake. Like them, I didn’t go for an upper body workout, or for some competitive need to reach Australia. I went to drift. I like to feel the water move through the thin skin of the kayak. I go for the silence–and I practice making my strokes soundless and invisible. I like to think of myself as some latter day native American, sneaking up on the woods. This behavior has its rewards. As soon as I hit the edge of that cove the world opened up and the act of being alive on that day in that place became the whole point.
First I scared up a small duck who flew deeper into the cove to evade me. Then I found myself, the water clear as clean glass, looking down on some huge fishes. The were the size of a man’s forearm, and just as muscular, arching in S formations, and when they’d gotten enough of me, they muddied the shallow water to throw me off. A kayak will continue moving forward in only a few inches of water, so I can go all the way to the back of that cove, and always do. Sometimes, back there,I can look down and see the tracks left by a wading heron printed into the undisturbed mud.
A little turtle the size of a silver dollar jumped off the limb he was sitting on and hid in the water as soon as he realized I was there. The water’s surface was patterned with the first fallen autumn leaves. Some were long and narrow shapes that curled up at one end. And when the wind blew they moved across the surface of the water like little gondolas headed for shore.
I took perhaps 75 photographs, and never drew. I didn’t want to stop long enough to concentrate on a drawing. But I did stop, in the middle of the quiet cove, to put my feet up on the deck and just BE. Floating into the sunlight of a clearing the air would wrap around my bare arms like a warm sweater, then a few seconds later it would gently cool. The little duck, wary of my presence at the back of the cove, flew in the other direction.
Over and over I thought to myself about what a blessing this afternoon was. I thought of my friend Beth, who once went kayaking with me, much to her delight, and has now left this earth. I thanked God for allowing me this day. I reminded myself to do this again and again. I told myself it probably didn’t take 100 calories to make this afternoon happen and that tiny expenditure took me to the head table at the Feast. When the sun dropped almost behind the high banks I paddled back to shore, and headed for home. And when I got there I left the kayak in the back of the truck to tip the scale in favor of waking up in the morning and going right back.