When my family members were to gather in our hometown last month for our mother’s funeral, one of my sisters suggested that those of us who kayak should bring along our boats. I was initially a bit sceptical. I thought we would be far too busy and distracted to enjoy a paddle. I was wrong; my sister was right.
The day before our mom’s memorial, five of the family went kayaking on a lake near our hometown and because it was a weekday, we had the place to ourselves. To our delight we found that spring run-off had made the water unusually high, and we could access areas that were normally impassible. We had a wonderful time. The weather was warm, the water was clear, and my brothers-in-law kept us laughing with their antics. One ended up trying to forge a passage through some bulrushes near shore where the water really wasn’t deep enough, and he grounded himself amidst the reeds and windfalls. He had to get out of his boat and drag it back out into navigable water. Since he was lead boat at the time, the rest of us had the good sense to take an alternate route, thereby making it through without too much difficulty. The other brother-in-law, who loves electronic gizmos, had a new kayak-cam that he was testing out for the first time. All was going well and he was getting some great footage of our adventure, right up until he accidentally knocked the tiny camera off its suction cup base and into the water. Fortunately the lake was shallow enough at that spot that he could see the cam, and I used my boat to steady his while he reached down to the bottom and snagged it. That would’ve been amazing footage if the camera had been running, but unfortunately he’d turned it off just moments before he knocked it overboard. For some reason he didn’t think it was a good idea to turn the camera on and toss it back into the water, just for the footage. Some people can’t be reasoned with.
One of the best things about a kayak is that it glides through the water so quietly that you can get very close to wildlife before they take any notice of you. I often muse that the ducks, geese, loons, and turtles we encounter on the water must consider us large, ungainly, and unfamiliar water fowl, for if we stay silent, we can approach to within a few feet without alarming them. Given that it was spring, we ran into many mating pairs, and most of them paid us little heed, though one mallard male appeared greatly perturbed when his mate unceremoniously abandoned him as we approached.
We didn’t sleep much the night before Mom’s memorial service, and in the wee hours of that morning, my sister and I sat in her hot tub and watched the dawn break. That was a blessing, a gentle start to the day we were to say good-bye to the woman we loved so dearly. But it meant we were exhausted by day’s end. The day after the service, I was still tired and didn’t feel like going kayaking, but once again my stubborn sister coaxed me into going; once again, she was right. This time, there were just three of us…and a kayak-cam that was firmly attached with a lanyard, just in case.
I should interject a side note about my style of kayaking. I am basically a lazy kayaker. I’m not out to achieve feats of athleticism. I don’t do white water or rapids; even an abundance of white capped waves isn’t my favourite thing. I just want to de-stress and commune with nature.
The second lake we went to is usually windy, but it is also one of my favourites, so I was willing to put up with some turbulence. The water level of this lake, too, was higher than usual, but it was so clear that at one end we could see an abundance of water lilies growing up from the lake bed below, though they were still a long way from breaking the surface. We also enjoyed the small, thunderous waterfalls along the hills that lined the shores, which had been created by the spring run-off. But the most amazing part of our paddle was that while we could feel wind tossing our hair and see the breeze rustling brush along the shore line, the water was like glass, reflecting our kayaks in perfect mirror images as we paddled. Yet mere moments after we pulled into shore at the end of the day, the waves picked up and the lake resumed its normal wind-ruffled appearance. The serenity whilst we paddled had truly been a small miracle.
It has been three weeks now since Mom’s memorial service. In a few days my family will gather together again, this time at our uncle’s farm, to camp and kayak, and wrap ourselves in the unbreakable bonds that our marvellous mother instilled in her children. We will also celebrate my sixtieth birthday with elk burgers and carrot cake. It will be the first birthday of my life that I won’t hear my mom sing Happy Birthday to me, but her love and her legacy lives on—in the laughter that we’ll share, the old stories that we’ll retell, and the peace we will once again find on the water.
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