Thursday, August 14, 2014

They're not all about flies

I am willing to accept defeat at some things, but I was not inclined to take my ill fated and pestilential inflatable canoe excursion onto Lake Superior as a defeat. Against an array of minor but solid enough obstacles my wife and I did manged to take my boat out onto the waters of Lake Superior and paddle it around for a bit. That the experience was a blur of biting flies, miserable sweatiness, and foot cramps did not make the trip into a failure. A thick portion of triumph was written into the endeavor by the mere act of setting onto the water and floating. That it was not fun, or serene, or comfortable just meant that I was well done with all that success when we hurriedly abandoned my boat, barely above the shore, and beat a hasty retreat into the sweetness of our rental lake home.

My mission was accomplished. I was finished, and happy to be so.

So it came as a surprise to me to find myself restlessly looking down on the lake from the great bank of windows in our cabin's long main room. The lake looked unrealy calm. The sun was out and alone in the sky, but not feeling the least bit fierce. Everything looked not grand or glorious or wild or compelling. It all looked very, very...pleasant.

And I thought "My boat is just sitting down there, all ready, and right near the shore. I can roll up the pant legs of my jeans. I can take off my shoes and socks down on the rocks."

So in just two minutes I found myself floating alone on the great lake. I am horribly tempted to say that the water was like glass, but it wasn't quite. It was wet for one, and slow, small swells would roll through it, too wide and gentle to feel, but barely visible. The water was peculiarly easy to paddle on, its lack of waves and winds and currents seemed to give every stroke a kind of magical perfection.

There were no flies. It was not hot or cold, a gently haze seemed to soften everything. It was quiet. My green glass view of a rocky bottom was perfectly clear until, traveling out, at some precise depth, through some trick of the light, I could not see into the water at all.

It gave me one of the strangest, floating, dazzling feelings in my stomach that I have ever had in any sort of wild place ever. Looking back to the shore was interesting; my house, the other houses, the engagingly rough shore, and the shape of the land, but it was the looking out and away that put strange music into quiet reality. That placid water, endless before me, flatter than any land could ever be, featureless, infinite, and with me alone. I was paddling into something so peculiarly close to nothing, immense, full of water and air and nothing more. I paddled into that nothing, and as I did I caught sight of some tiny bit of debris, drifted or blown far out from land. It was the smallest speck, only made visible by the unfaltering, uninterrupted cleanness of Lake Superior's surface. Drawn, human, to imperfection, I paddled towards it.

I think I expected somehow a chip of bark, some tiny jot of forest debris, but that is not what I found. There, however far from a distant shore, alone, utterly, was a fly, sleeping on the surface of the water.

I did not disturb it, and I paddled slowly towards home.

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