Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Out in the Cold

The week before Thanksgiving and the beginning of Thanksgiving week were lovely for kayaking. The water was cold enough that I needed my boots, but long sleeved shirt and long pants were perfect—not melting hot, not chilly cold. Then the weather snapped from fall to winter.

I was out Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. My new, light weight wool base layer works great with my waterproofed wind pants and jacket. Paddling keeps me warm. No time now, though, for meditative drifting or picnics up an inlet. I go down to the lake, slide in my kayak and paddle briskly for an hour.

A flock of thirty or so seagulls has come for the winter, giving a strange sense of incongruity. Seagulls in fresh water, I feel like I should be smelling the salt and hearing the beat of the waves. At least a hundred cormorants are wintering. I’ve seen the ospreys, a pair, I think. Last week I saw two bald eagles soaring together.

Even in winter, there’s a lot going on. One day the lake was so still that I felt like I was paddling through the blue sky. Yesterday a mist turned the shore line and the trees into a delicate water color. The same lake, yet it’s always different from day to day. I paddle; I breathe deeply; I’m grateful to God for the loveliness of creation. Where have you seen loveliness lately?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Down the River, Up the Creek

I don’t get tired of paddling on the lake at Cane Creek Park. Each time I go out, there are different cloud and wind patterns, different flowers, and different birds and other creatures to watch for. But recently, I wanted to explore somewhere different.

Last Friday afternoon, a friend and I set off from the Route 9 boat ramp in Lancaster SC. The first thing I sensed was that my kayaking friends were right. The Catawba is no place for a lone paddler. It is big. Beneath the smooth surface, there’s a sense of power. Along the shores are huge snags in which the current could tangle a boat. Snags on the lake, I just go around or untangle myself easily without the extra danger of a strong current.

We went down the wide river, looking for the outflow of Cane Creek. We knew that it came in across from an island. Several small streams entered. We wondered, could that be it? Or that one? Then the opening swept into view on our left. At this point, it was no longer a little creek. It was a river.

Up we paddled, through swamp at first. Lovely contrasts of green, varieties of texture in the plant life on the shore line. We were almost to a big bend where the land rose in steep little hills on the left when my companion said we’d better turn back, since she had to be home by 5:30. I said, “Please can we go far enough so we can see around the bend?” So we did.

With regret, I turned down stream and we slid down to the main river ever so much faster than we had paddled up. I looked regretfully down stream as we turned into the Catawba. So much more river running down to the sea. And so small a boat.

On the river of life, may God bless you with friends for the journey.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Simmering Summer

I was out on the lake yesterday afternoon. The sun was hot. The occasional breeze was hot. The water that dripped off my paddle was as warm as a tropical river. In the trees, the cicadas buzzed. Cicadas always sound hot to me. Summer in the Carolinas, yet there were signs of change. The elegant cardinal flowers were blooming. The green in the swamp maple leaves was fading. A single, perfect yellow leaf drifted down from a tulip poplar and rocked gently on the mirror smooth water. The orb weaving spiders had webs hung in the bushes. The wild grapes were beginning to turn purple. That raises the question, if I want to pick grapes, how can I pick the minimum number of spiders? I’d like that number to be zero!

When I’m tired, my mind often defaults to the horrible “what ifs”. I’ve learned to recognize that tiredness can trigger this undesirable behavior, and I quickly ask for forgiveness and for Jesus to change my mind. When it happened recently, the word to me was, “Live in the now, not in the maybe.” Living in the maybes and what ifs means I’m missing the present moment. So I’m working on living in the now, enjoying this hot, sticky day without looking for fall. But the signs are there, it is coming. Jesus urged people to pay attention to Kingdom signs, as well as weather signs. We have His word on it; He will make all things new. We can’t know the day or the hour, but we know a new kingdom is coming. Live in the now, but keep your eyes open for signs of His coming.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Putting it Off

I’ve been reminded that the longer you put off doing something, the harder it is to actually get it done. Especially if there are no deadlines involved. The problem started over spring break with a kayak adventure that left me speechless.

The park and lake were crowded on a Sunday afternoon. Looking for some quiet time sounded like a good theory, but wasn’t working out. First, a large pontoon boat full of party people hailed me, “Come aboard, Sweetie. We have single men!” I paddled past in silence. Then I heard a motor start and they cruised up beside me. “Come aboard and have a cold one. We’re following you! We love your hat!” I kept going and headed for water too shallow for them to follow. Up one of my favorite inlets, I drifted, admiring the wild, pink azaleas. I tried to pray but, out on the road, happy motorcyclists were celebrating spring by shifting rapidly up through the gears. I went home feeling bad. First, I had nothing either spiritual or clever to say to the fellows on the pontoon boat. (My friends’ immediate reaction to the story—“They must have been drunk!”) Then I couldn’t clear my mind enough of the distractions to pray. It took a couple of weeks to realize I was suffering from false guilt, not the kind that leads to repentance and renewal, but the nagging sort that keeps you from seeing real problems. I didn’t write about the events. I have still been kayaking regularly, but not writing. So I decided to just sit down today and write something, finally.

Leigh and I had an idyllic trip in the spring. We went up the main inlet as far as possible, picnicked on a gravel bar, the banks covered in spring beauty, trout lilies and wild violet. After lunch, she held her hand out patiently and tiny blue butterflies sat on her fingers. We paddled downstream with her making up songs about how lovely it was. Then, out on the lake, a wasp flew by her. She freaked. I found out that the advertisement was correct; the double seat kayak I bought is remarkably stable. She cried, tried to crawl under the seat, tried to crawl over the seat, screamed and implored me to stay away from the shore. It was an unhappy ending to a beautiful day. She didn’t want to go out again. I was disappointed.

Yesterday she had gathered enough courage to try again. So we set out with her and me in the double and Chet in the single. She wanted to show Grandpa her special gravel bar. Since we had a heavy rain storm Saturday night, the water was high enough to get up the creek. When we came to logs, she implored us to exert ourselves, to persevere—her words—and we squeezed under tree trunks and pushed floating logs aside. We made it up to the gravel bar where she skipped rocks across the little pool. No wasps, a much better trip. Even her discovery, while we were loading the kayaks on the truck, that her pink Crocs would not only float, but one of them was sailing away from the dock, didn’t ruin all the fun. I’ll admit, though, I wasn’t really cheerful as I pulled the single kayak back off the truck and assembled my paddle to chase after the sailing shoe.

For us, it was a delight to be out with her. I hope that she not only enjoyed the afternoon, but feels taller for confronting a fear successfully. The afternoon reminded me of a sign I saw last week that said, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”

Friday, March 19, 2010

Trial Run

Leigh came for the morning and worked her way swiftly through her school work. “Gramma, now can we go kayaking?” I went and stood in the front yard in shirt sleeves, checking the temperature by feel. I said, “Yes, let’s go try out the new boat.” I purchased a second hand double kayak a couple of months ago and it has been waiting and so has she. The words were hardly out of my mouth and she was standing by the truck holding her new paddle and our life vests, imploring me to hurry.

The boat is too large—fourteen feet and sixty two pounds—for the little wheels I strap on my single seat boat. So I backed down the boat ramp and slid it in. I suggested we head for the dam. Leigh said, “The swamp is much more interesting.” So we headed up one of the inlets. It wasn’t any more difficult to paddle than the single boat last year with her tucked in the front between my feet. She liked her youth sized paddle, but declared it too chilly to keep dripping water on her jeans. We kept an eye out for wildlife and litter. She’s developing a keen eye for both.

We paddled up an inlet, pulled the boat out and walked along the little stream. We came to a narrow wooden bridge, Leigh said, “Let’s just run back and forth and back and forth awhile. So we did, with my boots clomping and Leigh singing “trip, trap, trip, trap” as we crossed and re-crossed and crossed again. We followed the trail up to a meadow which she just had to run around. I didn’t run. My socks had slid down in my boot toes. That will do for a reason or for an excuse!

As we paddled back to the boat ramp, she asked if we could do it again, for a whole day this time. Lots of room to bring a picnic lunch, so we’ll find a day sometime soon. I think the new boat will be all that I’d hoped. And not just for Leigh and me, now I can bring someone else.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

At Last!

I went out kayaking a week ago—the cold wind brought tears to my eyes as I crossed the lake. In the lee of the dam and up in the sheltered inlet, it was calm and almost warm in the sun. But it was beautiful and I needed to kayak. I was feeling twitchy, assailed by false guilt, the kind that doesn’t produce any actual change, just misery. I realized that an hour in my boat would probably cure it.

Today, oh lovely day! Actually warm and pleasant, I left home the wet suit. I packed a picnic in an orange dry bag. I filled one stainless steel thermos with hot tea, one with water. Boots on my feet, but no wool socks, no skirt on the kayak. I launched about 11:30 and headed east, up the lake, past a flock of gulls, under the power towers with the roosting cormorants and anhinga. I went carefully and quietly past the clumps of reeds at the upper end. Nesting Canadian geese are a force to be avoided! I slipped under the Potter Road Bridge and up the creek. Every trip up has different obstacles. The heavy rains had washed out the tree trunks and I made it up to where the rocks blocked the channel. There, listening to the music of water gurgling over rocks and the wind in the trees, I ate my lunch. It was idyllic, until I accidentally poured hot tea on my leg. Even that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for long. On the banks, tiny pale pink flowers with a thin red line on each petal were blooming, looking them up in my field guide at home, I discovered they are “spring beauties”.

I admired the large southern ash trees by the water. Jeremiah 17: 7,8 speaks of trees planted by the river bank that never fear the drought because they have sent their roots to the water. I love that picture, bearing fruit even in hard times because they aren’t dependant on rains. God has planted us by the river of His Word; we need to send our roots in that direction.

As I paddled back, I picked up litter. I’ve learned that it is more pleasing to pick up trash after lunch than to lunch among the empty bottles and cans. Back on the main lake, a brisk wind had picked up and I had to lean into paddling against it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Out There Anyway

I went out kayaking on Monday, only the fourth time this year. Each time there has been a scrim of clouds in the west, the water grey with silver sparkles where the sun shone through weakly. Monday, the clouds were thicker, the lake still and smooth. The colors were muted, grays of tree trunks, dark green of the evergreens. Long rays of light streamed through cracks in the clouds. My grandmother used to say that this was the sun drawing water and was a sure sign of a storm. Old French legend calls the rays a stairway to heaven for souls going to God. Any way you look at it, it was lovely. The lake is full and running over, the little streams coming in with a chuckle of falling water. The brush alders along the shore have put out dangling yellow catkins, a sign of spring in spite of the lingering chill.

As I turned to return to the boat ramp, the clouds parted, the sun streamed out and blue sky and white clouds were reflected in the still water. Suddenly all the colors were brighter, sharper. I had thought of several reasons not to bother with kayaking on Monday afternoon. How glad I was that I went anyway! It got me to thinking, how much else do I miss by finding good excuses?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Pride Goes Before a Fall... In Temperature!

All through November and December, I’ve been bragging about how I’m committed to year round kayaking. I just put layers over my wet suit and off I go. Then someone left the back door to Canada open this week. I’m not kayaking with lows in the teens and “highs” creeping up on upper thirties. In fact, I’m not going outside much at all. A trip or two to the wood pile for more oak, ash bucket carried out to the compost pile and that’s about it. I sit here typing, one room removed from the wood stove and even in flannel lined jeans and a flannel shirt, I’m chilly. The cats are smarter. They’ve hardly left the living room for days. They have progressed this morning from the hearth rug to the chairs, must be warming up a bit in there. I miss kayaking, but not enough to go out at this temperature!