I did something unusual this past weekend — unusual for me, that is: I went away for the holiday weekend. A thoroughly conventional getaway, something my adult life’s mostly been without. The place was a lake-side property owned by my girlfriend’s family; it’s where they go during the summers to relax and catch up with each other. On this Labor-Day occasion, I got invited along. It was lovely.
I grew up close to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, and so to recreation on the water, but I’ve never had much first-hand exposure to boating. I haven’t been in a canoe since I was a kid — and that was perhaps only once or twice. (Once that I clearly remember, with dad and bros. on the C & O Canal.) I’d never been in a kayak before this weekend.
The sleepy little body of water her family’s place is on turned out to be the ideal spot for a neophyte to figure out the kayak a bit (not, of course, that there’s much to it), and — hello! — I liked it. I liked it a lot. Sunday, I got myself on the water briefly a couple of times, alone, clumsily. Scared some ducks and was noted with evident disapproval by a pair of presiding swans. Monday morning I was up a little after five, long before anyone else in the house, and made myself coffee and stepped out as soon as it was a little light.
Just as I went out on the swimming dock to look at the water, one of those swans I’d encountered the day before came into view from mid-way down the pond, unhurried, announcing itself with a few low honks. The sky was overcast — there’d been a good rain the night before — and the water completely calm. Eery calmness, really; not particularly pleasant. I’d determined to go out and take advantage of the morning, though, and I did. Out past the wary swan and across and around, as the day before, then through the culvert (which you see in the street-view link above) under the dividing roadway and all along the shorelines of the lake’s two halves, alone but for birds (and not many of those) on all that incredibly smooth surface for an hour and a half, observing the dark houses and the dark forms of vegetation and rock under the water. Not very vacation-y activity, to be sure. Just as well, anyhow, since I and my graceless paddling could’ve only raised eyebrows if anybody’d been out.
I managed to take to the kayak several times that day. Could hardly get enough, it seemed like. I’ve been thinking some, that day and since, about why it had such appeal for me. Part of it, without a doubt, was just the weather. The clouds had passed on by early in the morning, and the day’d come out bright and lightly breezy, making the water clear and ripply and inviting. Part of it was the novelty of the thing, part of it the pleasure in exercise. Part of it, too, I guess, was some recollection of imagined boat-making and -sailing adventures in boyhood — flights of creative imagination that were common enough in my pre-teen life, but that (like later dreamy inventions of helicopters and robots and computer games) didn’t lead to anything concrete and haven’t been much missed. They don’t abandon one altogether, maybe, just because they aren’t missed.