Friday, November 19, 2010


The bay spreads wide in front of us, its surface reflecting the mercurial silver of the clouds.

A row of toothy cliffs hem the bay, each stretching volcanic claws out into the open water. Our safety-orange kayaks skirt the frothy border of their domain. The seabirds watch us dolefully as they circle overhead, occasionally punctuating the surface with a perfect spearhead dive.

As soft as I'm feeling these days, I'm surprised at the power my arms are putting into each stroke of the paddle. Kayaking quiets the mind in a backwards way: by playing havoc with the idea of accomplishment. Objects that seemed unreachably far appear suddenly close; a beach that seemed imminent drifts unfathomably away. Once you're in the rhythm of it, you necessarily abandon your attachment to the goal. You'll make it there. Just keep paddling.

I hear your paddle catch the water behind me. I turn to see you, and the off-beat strike of the paddle sends up a small splash. The drops that land on my lips taste like blood.

We lie back in our respective boats, cradled in the plastic well, knees resting on either side. Viewed from overhead, we'd look like pinned butterflies, framed in orange on silver satin.

We talk about the sense of responsibility we have to our beloved forms of expression--flying, either with wings or through curvy canyons--and the logistics of constant movement--and our responsibilities to our families and our livelihoods and our continued exploration. We talk about the unrelenting drive to be better, smarter, stronger, cleverer. To learn more languages, dances, airsports, motorcycles, martial arts and authors. We talk about the pace we've set. We strategize.

There's an acrobatic plane overhead. Its occasional loops dig tufts of cloud from the gathering thunderheads and pull them, thread-candylike, into the open air. The storm's coming.

As I watch you dig your paddle into the water as you turn towards shore, I wonder what's beneath the mirrored surface.

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