Today I ventured into uncharted territory.
I have this issue with water, in that I float like a rock. I like to say that I'm pretty sure I wouldn't drown in the deep end of a pool, but I'm not sure, and I haven't tested that theory. But today, trusty PFD (personal flotation device, AKA, lifejacket) in place, I sat down in a kayak and let some stranger push me off a dock and into the water.
The first moments were an uncomfortable lesson in physics. Each motion from me resulted in an equal and opposite motion from the boat. Which is sort of okay, but I had to figure out how much I could move without the reaction resulting in a tipped kayak and me in the drink. Then I started to make some tentative movements with the paddle, and soon I was comfortable that the boat was not going to tip too easily, that I could kinda sorta steer, and that this was, in fact, going to be fun.
I love the perspective of sitting down on the water. Everything is above you. The sky, the peaks, the trees, the shore. All of it. I love that when you are just enough feet away from the shore, the water takes on a different sound, because you can't hear it washing over the rocks on the shoreline.
The first part of the day was the part where we paddled. Several of us were newbies and had to try to figure out the "right way" to paddle (push with your upper hand, DON'T pull with the lower hand). Reach out in front, but not too high. Result? Lots of banging of knuckles on the sides of the boat, and so much pulling with the lower hand. Yeah, I listen well.
We were fighting against the wind. I'd paddle and paddle, and then look over and look at the sllloowww passing of the shoreline. It was a little like being on a treadmill. Lots of forward effort, but little forward motion.
After lunch was different. There was lots of floating. The kayaks became personal pods with each of us lost in private reveries, or simply floating with little or no thought at all. The sound and feel of the gentle waves rocking was almost enough to put you into a trance. I looked down into the water at one point and saw that the reflection of the sun was doing this weird thing where there were a ton of points of light that looked like they were coming up from below the water. For one instant I almost understood why that idiot Frodo followed the lights.
I had no camera (because mine's not waterproof, and even if it were, there's the issue of dropping it into the lake- I'd be the one to do that if it was going to happen). But the picture is there. My legs, that I could almost watch as they burned (despite copious amounts of sunscreen), the orange kayak extending out in front of me and coming to a point, with the sparkling water surrounding it, and the mountains rising up from the distance.
I looked at my knees, which are covered in bruises from inexpert climbing the day before. My legs, covered with water from paddling. I am in a place that makes me excited that winter is coming and hopeful for a good snow year, because I can't wait to ski (we could see the nordic center trails from the lake). I consider the fact that I was climbing the day before, kayaking today, and ready for cross country ski season. So strange for someone like me, who- a couple of years ago- avoided the outdoors because there were too many bugs there. My only "sport" was walking. Sometimes. If it was not too hot, too cold, or too wet, and I was not too tired.
Today I was on the water with a friend who will be leaving in a couple of weeks. A friend who is genuinely excited about life and all kinds of fun outdoors experiences. The friend who helped teach me many of the sports that I now do. The day was bittersweet. So fun to try something else that is (almost) new. So great to make the most of time left before a new chapter begins in her life. So sad to think of new adventures without her.
Life is strange and fluid. It's always changing and people move in and out. I can't even begin to say how much it meant to have her and another friend here in the mountains for the first two years. Or how much it hurts to have them go, but I'm okay with that. Because they're worth it.
They are leaving, but who knows what is next? I got to know someone else a little better today, someone I'd only met once or twice before. Maybe she'll become a good friend, too. Maybe I'll just rest my paddle for a while and float and see where the water, and life, take me next.