Thursday, December 1, 2022

One Final Paddle


Here in Maine, we've had a mild fall, and all through September and October, when we'd come to the end of a stellar day of sun and warm weather, I'd say, "We should have gone kayaking!" But somehow the thought would never come to me earlier in the day, when there was time to make it happen. Then on the first Monday of November, I worked outside on the picnic table, moving from sun to shade as the sun climbed higher and the day got warmer. I'd planned to go grocery shopping in the afternoon, after the boys got home from school with my car. But by lunchtime the thermometer topped 75 degrees!

I knew there wouldn't be many more days like that, so I threw on capris and a t-shirt, tossed my kayak in the pickup truck, and headed to water. There's a pond that's close enough, and small enough, that a trip there is about an hour, door to door, including a lazy circumnavigation complete with bird watching. I could kayak the loop and still get home in plenty of time to do the far less interesting task of shopping.

The water was a little lower than the last time I'd paddled, after a dry summer and fall, making the launch point next to the outlet a little steeper, but it was still doable solo, with no fear of tipping in. It was a different pond than it is in May, June, or July. The cattails and grasses on the shore were dry and blond, the laurel and willow shrubs branchy and leafless. No turtles slid off shoreside logs into the dark, tannic water. No bass splashed. The sphagnum bog at the far end was quiet, without the calls of red-winged blackbirds or song sparrows. But it was still a lovely pond, peaceful and wild when I turned my back to the road and the handful of houses on the roadside shore.

I made my circuit and when I returned to the put-in point, I realized that the steeper bank would also make getting out of the boat a bit more challenging. Though the water was shallow, I really did not want to dump into the water, when I was there by myself (and with my phone in my pocket), so I hoisted myself out with extra more vigor. I made it to dry land with no problem, but the boat, pushed backward by the force of my exit, drifted off in the other direction, paddle across the coaming, bowline nonexistent. 

The water was cold but not that cold, and the air was still in the low 70s. Still, I didn't feel like swimming. I steeled myself for that possibility, tossing binoculars and phone onto high, dry ground. Fortunately, the boat bounced into reeds across the outlet channel and came back in my direction, coming to rest in reeds only a few feet from shore, so I only had to wade up to my knees to fetch it. Not exactly a life-and-death situation, but it made for an exciting finish to the last kayak trip of the year.

Now the boats are hung up for the winter, and the weather has turned to more normal November fare--frosty mornings, a winter chill in the air. And I am thankful for late season sun and a final trip on the water.

A version of this post went out recently to subscribers of my newsletter, along with some bonus material. Subscribe here and receive a free PDF of my illustrated short essay "Eleven Ways to Raise a Wild Child."

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