Sunday, August 15, 2010

Smooth Kayaking Too

The same breeze that keeps us cool on hot days makes kayaking too much work for me. There's enough chop by 8:30 a.m. that I'd have to wiggle into the sprayskirt and, of course, the paddling is that much more of a workout -- good for the biceps and triceps and whatnot, but I'm on holiday, no?

But by early evening, the breeze has died right down, and the sky is a study in feathery blues and pinks; when Pater suggests we paddle around the island, I put down my book and follow. Last night was one of the calmest ever, the water glassy smooth, the air still enough for sounds to drift across, motorcycles gunning their engines in town to harmonize with teens laughing at their campsite on a nearby island, a dog on a boat barking at a canine competitor guarding one of our neighbours' properties, seagulls comparing vocal range with the purple martens swooping into their nesting boxes posted in the causeway.

Although there was very little breeze, smells assailed us almost as vigorously as sounds. Beef being grilled on a barbeque mixed unpromisingly with the musky fishrot announcement of an otter's hangout but both were happily erased when we turned the corner into a strong note of ozone mixed with the clean iodine-y scent of the saltchuck. And around another corner again, into the freshcut wood smell pulsating off the log booms.

Last year, on a similar evening paddle, I was mesmerized at this same spot by a procession of gulls flying ever so purposefully across the darkening sky towards what I could easily imagine as a meeting in some known-only-to-The-Gull-Lodge location. Tonight, instead, I was besotted with the huge drums that mark the edges of the log booms -- fifteen or more feet long, at least five or six feet high, giant barrels, anchored presumably, which serve to tie the log booms up while they're awaiting transfer to the mill. The drums are painted a bright red-orange, but are rusted from the waterline up several feet, and the setting sun, or more properly its candy-coloured residue, turns their homeliness into the most sublime objects. The perfect demonstration of a colour wheel's lessons, they transform the dullness of the blue water below them. Together, the gently undulating blue-grey-silver and the momentarily glorious rust-red-orange form a spiritual union, a synergistic satisfaction for this happy viewer. I mark the page: last year, the meeting-bound gulls; this year, the heavy richness of industrial beauty; what will I read here next year?

And finally, back on our side of the island, the east side, and heading northward home, the quarter-moon takes over lighting from the sun, and while it's not yet dark enough for the bio-luminescence to brighten our way, the lights of the big ferry heading to the mainland sketch a magical castle on the dusky horizon. The greys and blues and pinks are all muted, slightly hazy, the colours of a velvety, powder-free chalk, oil pastels, smudged. With no resistant breeze to work against, I paddle easily, steadily, my arms caught in a rhythm requiring no thought. An insistent rhythm, though, that I catch yearning toward those ferry/fairy lights -- for an odd little second or two, I recognize a willingness to paddle off toward the horizon, mile after calm mile, my thoughts suspended, my breathing deep and relaxed.

Of course, I do no such thing, and instead round the last corner after Pater and crunch the kayak up on the beach, swinging myself out and onto shore. Remembering the words of Louis Armstrong: what a wonderful world, oh yeaaaaah!


  1. Paradise mater......pure and simple.
    and a workout...WIN WIN!

  2. Finally, I have purloined Daisy's laptop whilst she should be doing some housework, but is in fact eating!
    The girls managed to Kayak for a day and as I sat and watched I thought of you and how this would be as easy for you as me popping into to London. I think it would be so wonderfully cathartic to kayak like that even once in a while.
    You are the only person I know who understands that whole holiday dilemma,I too have just watched a whole week go by with little achieved, I spend most term time thinking "oh I can do that in the holiday" yet when it come to it I rarely do. Now I should be in the garden but here it is wet and grey and about as uninviting as it could be, for once our weather does not seem to mirror.
    I also understand your feelings about having someone around all day. Emin has worked from home for 4 years the shock was horrible, especially combined with the arrival of the au-pair. I survived by coming home late but even now struggle to achieve much when he is around. There is no good reason for this I am just hamstrung when others are in the house and cannot get stuck in to anything without interruption. One thing I do achieve on holiday is a bit of mothering and so that will have to do.
    Glad you enjoyed the photographs of Scotland, isn't it a lovely place?

  3. Oh how blissful and thoughtful at the same time. I recognize what you say, that sense you might disappear into what you see. I think that's what the Buddhists call mindfulness, and it brings us such a sense of freedom.

  4. Hostess: Isn't it just one of the best summers we've ever had here?!
    Alison: Oh, yes, I get it! And you're in those really tough years right now, juggling your daughters' needs with work. You're wise to realize that the mothering is an accomplishment in itself, but as it's an accomplishment that has to be continually re-accomplished, you have to get all Zen to really believe in its worth.
    LPC: It was a moment or two that I totally occupied, sufficient unto itself -- those don't come along often. . .

  5. I agree...once it got going...took awhile but worth the wait!

  6. I have long had the fantasy of kayaking and I have never experienced the reality and that( among other reasons) is why I love this absolutely beautiful post.
    "the bio-luminescence to brighten our way...a magical castle on the dusky horizon....velvety, powder-free chalk, oil pastels, smudged.... yearning toward those ferry/fairy lights." Gorgeous! THanks for sharing a bit of your wonderful world.

  7. Ah, sounds lovely. Your descriptions are utterly entrancing.

  8. Such a beautiful description ... Made me long for spring so we can get our kayak down to the water, although our surrounds are much more urban (inner city harbour down the hill).

  9. What a lovely post today with your keen observation and entrancing descriptive skills. It makes one yearn to be out on the water paddling next to you. I've never kayaked, but still hope to some day. I miss being out on the river, and our ancient canoe is too heavy for me to handle by myself as well as too large for a solo trip. Someday.

  10. Belette: The kayaks are just sitting here, waiting for your visit . . .
    Pseu: Thanks!
    Tiffany: I think urban paddling has its own charm -- we haven't done that yet in Vanc'r, but I'd like to someday.
    Mardel: Like you, I find a canoe impossible to manage on my own, and I love the independence of the kayak -- I hope you get a chance to try one for yourself.


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