It doesn’t matter if I’ve had the WORST day ever. When I take that first paddle in my kayak, every bit of stress that I was feeling, whether it be physical, emotional or mental, fades away into the concentric ripples as I glide across the tranquil waters.
I credit my Mom and Dad for introducing me to this wonderfully therapeutic form of exercise. Of course when I first saw people kayaking on Gilead Lake, therapy was not a word that entered my mind. It just looked like so much fun! After trying out my parents’ kayaks, I invested a modest amount into what I would call a “starter” boat. It was only nine foot in length and wasn’t the straightest tracker, but it allowed me the freedom to explore all of the smallest drainage creeks, shallow inlets filled with lily pads, turtles and teeming with insects and fish. I would wedge my kayak between lily pads and cattails, relax, soak up some rays, and watch for life on and below the water.
After sitting silently for several minutes, fish would swim slowly towards my kayak, one curious eye fixated on me. Turtles would paddle up from the depths and scratch at the bottom of my boat, probably trying to figure out what this shadow above them was. Dragonflies buzzed around me, sometimes landing on my leg or arm. I loved to watch them chase each other and then quickly land on a reed, or part of my body, staring me down with those gigantic, bulbous eyes. It’s amazing how much life goes on around us that we are totally oblivious to, until we slow down… and purposefully… look.
At this very moment, I’m sitting at a table that overlooks our back yard bird feeder, birdhouses and woods. The birds are busy eating the sunflower seeds that I put out for them earlier. Their appetites have not diminished with the wave of cold that we Michiganders have experienced as of late. I can only sit here and yearn for the weather to straighten up, just enough…
The earliest I’ve been kayaking has been in January (in Florida), but I have paddled into the partially iced-covered lakes in Michigan, mid to late February. If one can pick a day with no wind and no precipitation, making certain to dress warmly enough with more layers insulating the bottom and legs, paddling in the winter months can be some of the best paddling of the year. Lakes in Michigan can get pretty crazy with hordes of people in the warmer months, but paddle in February and March… you’re guaranteed to have the entire lake to yourself!
Today, I’ll be content to sit by the wood burner, sipping my hot chaga tea, watching the outside critters dine on their provisions, while listening to the howling, bitter wind… dreaming of that first opportunity to dip my paddle into the serene and tranquil waters.