Thursday, December 17, 2009

Foggy Morning

I’ve only made it out on the lake once or twice a week lately. No trouble with low water. The overflow pipe sounds like a jet engine. Up one of the streams that flows into the lake, the water was leaping in small falls over rock and tree root, something I hadn’t seen before.

The lake was wrapped in pale gray mist when I went out, deeply silent. When I stopped paddling, only the quiet chuckle of water under the bow broke the silence. I needed to be out paddling and praying. I don’t pray well in my house, too many things calling for my attention. The days and evenings have been full, all good stuff, but tiring and easy to lose focus in the middle of it all.

I paddled to the east end of the lake, around the island that was a peninsula all summer. Not many birds out, one blue heron, a group of mallards. The trees were gray, the evergreens almost black in the mist. I love the bare bones of trees in winter, each kind has a shape of its own and then each tree varies that a bit. The oaks, especially, seem to be lifting hands in praise. The few leaves clinging to beeches were a pale copper color. Some of the willow oaks still held onto yellow leaves. I look at their uplifted branches and remember Isaiah 61, “They shall be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord for the praise of His glory”.

The high water had floated some litter in reach. I filled the space between my feet. Litter annoys me, so I leave the park cleaner on almost every trip. I leave feeling virtuous. In a world filled with massive, insolvable problems, litter in the park is something I can have a small impact on.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

No Fox Before Lunch

I was late getting a paddle on the lake because I had been asked to bless the opening hunt of the season for a local fox hunt club. It is lots of fun, like stepping into the pages of a British novel. The tall horses, the youngsters on sturdy ponies, the hounds milling around the hunt master’s horse, the red jackets, and in the middle of it all, Pastor Fran in alb and stole, there to pray before they loose the hounds and ride out. Then the alb got tossed in our car, and Chet and I climbed on the wagon behind the tractor to follow the hunt. We bounced across pastures and under the shadow of oaks, catching sight of one distant rider and seeing one lost hound that followed us back to the starting field. There was a hearty pot luck dinner laid out. No fox was seen, but a good ride was had by all. The fox, they explained to me, gets chased, but not killed. They ride for the fun of it and to keep alive an ancient tradition.

Monday, November 9, 2009


It was late Saturday afternoon when I got to the lake, so I paddled down to the dam and back. The weather was warm and I wore only the boots from my winter gear. On the way back, a flock of turkey vultures were floating in high, lazy circle. Their flight feathers, lighter on the underside, were flashing almost white in the long rays of a late fall sunset. So lovely way up there!

I remembered our oldest son David coming home from eighth grade upset. He’d written a poem for English class and used the flight of the vulture as an image of something lovely. His teacher had marked it “inappropriate”. Vultures weren’t suitable for use in poetry. “But mom”, he protested, “They are beautiful when they fly. They’re only ugly on the ground. Why can I write poetry about eagles and not about vultures? What’s the difference?”

And the classic line, “It’s not fair!”

So watch the vultures fly. God made them beautiful when they are soaring as He created them to soar. God doesn’t make junk.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Out in the Cold

It was three thirty Sunday afternoon. I’d had lunch, a cup of strong Darjeeling tea, a ten minute nap and read a bit. The fire in the wood stove glowed. The cats were curled on the heart rug. Go out or stay in? Outside, it was chilly, breezy and drizzly. The lake was open again and on Friday I’d only had time for a quick dash down to the dam and back.

So I got out my life jacket and paddle, loaded my boat and set out. I wrestled the skirt onto the boat. With rubber boots on my feet, the skirt keeping my legs warm and dry, my waterproof jacket, snug life vest and my wool felt hat, I was ready.

The lake was gray, the sky gray, the trees dark. A brisk wind rippled the water. Paddling up against the wind, I was suddenly filled with delight. The warmth from within was different from sitting by the fire, but wonderful in its own way. My glasses caught the rain and the world looked like I was looking through pebbled glass. My chilly nose and finger tips made the rest of me feel warmer. Up my favorite inlet, out of the wind, I munched a mountain apple while drifting gently on the current, then back out into the wind.

Now I’m home again, with the fire in the wood stove, the cats curled by the hearth. Sometimes life is hard, but sometimes it is very good. Thanks be to God!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Little Woes

Sunday I got out my late fall equipment for kayaking, changed to the warmer life vest, got out the “skirt”. I arrived at the park, ready to paddle on the cool, damp afternoon. I opened the back door on the truck, no paddle, doing things differently and I forgot it. Back home, got the paddle and I returned. It was a lovely paddle, until I went to get back in the truck and found the little zip bag with my license and park permit gone. It was too late to look, so I went home. At home, I ran a load of towels and Chet said, “Why is there a puddle of water in front of the washer?”

First thing Monday morning, snuggly dressed in my wind jacket and boots, with the skirt in place, I set out to look for the little plastic bag. I knew it probably flew out when I pulled out my phone to check the time. I knew about where I was and which way the wind was blowing. So I paddled and searched. No little bag. But the sky was brilliant blue, the breeze was dancing the mist in circles, deer came down to drink.

It only took twenty minutes to get a temporary replacement for my license, but later that afternoon, the DMV office called and said to appear there before nine the next morning, because they had overcharged me. I drove home and called a repairman. The washer left with him, but he left a loaner. No news yet on the prognosis.

This afternoon I stopped at the ranger office to get a new park pass, only to find that the lake will be closed indefinitely as of tomorrow. Oh truly woe! The beauty of the paddle was off-set by wondering where else I could go, Cane Creek is so large, so close, so lovely.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Just since I was out on Thursday afternoon, the colors are coming in the trees. The colors are muted, partly by the cloudy day, partly by the fact the colors here aren’t as crayon bright as the mountains or northern states. The trees are still lovely with an occasional swamp maple flaming up, the burgundy of sweet gum and the yellow of beech. It is cooler, I began wondering about switching my sandals for rubber boots. A long sleeve shirt might have been good, but paddling for two hours warmed me. The green herons have flown away, some of the blue herons have moved on. It was quiet on the lake up at the far end, only the cries of birds disturbed by my passage.

Sunday afternoons are often quiet paddles. I’m not planning a message or learning Scripture. Sunday afternoons I find myself breathing deeply and just being at peace. I didn’t even make an effort to think of what I might write about, just enjoyed each view. On a sheltered bank, there was the last cardinal flower of the season; the salt bushes were fuzzy white. The wild asters white, with an occasional purple one.

People ask, “Don’t you fish? Don’t you take pictures?” No, I go just to be. I’ve caught a fish, but accidentally. He was dragging a bobber behind him and I pulled him in, unhooked and turned him loose. I tried photos. Someone gave me a waterproof film camera. I hadn’t realized until I tried to focus that my kayak bobbed so, even in what looked like calm water. Multi-tasking, not on Sunday afternoon, that’s for paddling, looking and breathing. Enjoying the deep, healing peace, the shalom of Sabbath.

Friday, October 2, 2009


September 25, ‘09
Ten days without kayaking, I was so glad to be on the water again! I need to be outdoors. Deep droughts of sky and tree and water seem as necessary as eating and drinking. Instead, I felt like I’d spent a couple of weeks in the driver’s seat of my car.

The sun had a full ring around it and I thought, “Storm coming!” My grandfather started his adult life as a whaler on a sailing ship and went on to farm a few rocky acres in southeastern Massachusetts, so I grew up with a rich fund of weather lore. Then I thought about Jesus’ criticism of the folks who could read the weather signs but couldn’t tell the signs of the coming kingdom. Every age has had those who proclaim their days the “end times”. Rather than growing impatient, we wait expectantly. I’m reading a book by N T Wright, Surprised by Hope, on the resurrection. My favorite part so far is his discussion of how all creation will be resurrected, new heavens and new earth. I love the created world and find the concept of it being raised exciting. Ever since I discovered that the word for “world” in John 3:16 means “all that God created” I’ve wondered about God’s plan for his creation.

September 26, ‘09

Gray sky, gray water, the trees wrapped in mist, their greens muted. The storm predicted by yesterday’s ring around the sun is on its way. Someone asked me, “Don’t you get tired of paddling around the same lake?” No, partly because it is never the same lake. The surface changes from mirror smooth to wind whipped. The sky changes, the colors of the trees change, flowers bloom, and birds come and go. I’ve seen the eagle twice again. Each trip bestows a different gift when you look expectantly.

I come to Scripture with the same sense of expectancy. It’s different each time we read it. A well loved verse takes on a new dimension of meaning for us or we understand a passage that we’ve wondered about. New truths flash out, like a kingfisher off a branch.

Monday, September 28, 2009

An Eagle Before Breakfast

A friend who also kayaks was telling me about her adventures living on Prince Edward Island this summer. “I saw an eagle before breakfast!” We both paused and said in unison, “What a wonderful title!” We decided to use it if we found a place for it. For me, it seemed like a title for this column. On Crane Creek, I’ve seen an eagle before supper twice now.

September 2 I packed a picnic lunch and set off paddling. My favorite picnic spot is up the east end of the lake. There’s a spot where two creeks flow in. There’s always shade, even at noon, under an overhanging hop hornbeam tree. It’s quiet up there, too shallow for motor boats. To get there, I had to paddle against the wind for twenty or thirty minutes. The brisk northeast wind was raising bouncy waves with little curls of foam. I dug in and paddled steadily. I began to think about the wind. In a small boat there are two choices. You can paddle against the wind or with the wind. Trying to go crosswise can roll a little boat if the wind is strong enough. There are strong winds blowing in our world today and our boats are small. Will we go against the wind and paddle strongly, or will we turn and be blown along by the wind?

No eagles on this trip, kingfishers darting by, great blue herons fishing in the shallows, a tree with four egrets standing in it, a little green heron that snapped at and caught a dragon fly. The rhythm paddling, the beauty of the cardinal flowers on the banks, the elegance of an egret with its white wings tipped in gold by the sun behind it all feed my soul.

Sept 3 It all started with a pair of long nosed pliers. After borrowing a pair from a fisherman to free a turtle I’d found dragging an orange bobber and line with a hook in his jaw, I decided I needed a pair to carry in my kayak. My grand daughter had found a bottle with hook and line wound around it on a recent trip and played at fishing with the bare hook. I certainly needed to be prepared in case of an accident with a hook. So I went to buy an inexpensive set of pliers. Then, I needed a way to carry the pliers. I always try to carry a full survival kit when I hike, perhaps I should have a kit when I kayak. So I got a space blanket, waterproof match holder, first aid kit, some rope, water purifying tablets. With what I had at home, I put together a four pound kit that zips into a hip pack. Now when I paddle, it rides behind my seat, clipped to the strap that supports the seat back. I feel better going prepared. Spiritual survival kit? I found a water repellent New Testament bound in plastic with a plastic zipper. I read Colossians the other day while floating in an inlet. What are you carrying in your life’s survival kit?