I’ve looked at kayaks with fear and trembling and enticement.
Over the past few years I’ve allowed less to scare me, but I suppose there is residual fear from a lifetime of being accustomed: accustomed to the worry that somehow my body will halt me from continuing (“what if I don’t fit? what if I’m too heavy? what if I’m laughed at?”) and the ‘what ifs’ (“what if I roll and get stuck and drown and my face gets pecked off by a pike?”). These things initially flood my thoughts against my own will; a hefty portion of the beginning of my life was spent collecting a magnificent array of nicknames and embarrassing moments from being obese. My twenties have been embellished with a stream of “Smokey Drives a Cadillac” experiences that have helped rid of that habitual expectation of worry or fear of judgement, and I’ve submitted myself to some of the most amazing opportunities.
Thankfully, while the body has mostly remained on the same end of the spectrum – though with some positive changes – I can say that I’ve shed the majority of the fear.
All of this intro to one little piece of heaven: I went kayaking for the first time.
Let me start by saying that I’m in love with canoeing. Every year when I come home to visit Michigan, my best friend (of 24 years!) and I canoe the AuTrain River. There is something so empowering about steering my way down the river, and having the strength to carry us out of any sticky situation. Arm strength, core stability, positivity, it all counts.
But I’ve been dying to kayak.
Kayaking was like this cool elitist thing to me, kind of like running. I try to run, I want so desperately to run, but I can’t sustain mileage. I’m more of an interval girl. But I still count it as running! I am infatuated with runners and as they jog by I study their faces, their form, their feet. They are part of this club I try to mimic, but just am not yet able to be a part of.
I am the canoe and they were the kayak.
But now I’m the kayak!
Dale was one of my substitute teachers in junior high, but we have kept in touch over the years. She was also my group leader when I was a part of Youth Volunteer Corps and we spent summer days volunteering to help clean up the forest. She’s always had a great love for nature and not afraid to share that. Being that I work with the U.S. Forest Service this summer, I have heard about her avid attendance at a slew of our summer programs. It was on the Night Hike and Owl Calling put on by my counterpart Kelsey and me that I finally got to see Dale. We chatted after the hike and planned on kayaking the next day at Pete’s Lake “because it’s a clear lake and just in case I roll I can pretend I’m swimming.”
It ended up being extremely windy and sprinkling on and off, threatening lightening, so we postponed a couple days. I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful night!
We arrived at Pete’s Lake a bit before 7pm, welcome by the twilight’s outreaching arms. I was excited and both extremely nervous, and I knew I wouldn’t chill out until I sat in the kayak and knew it wouldn’t feel like sitting on a flight on a puddle jumper for two hours (hey, my hips don’t lie…true to size). She gave me a lesson on getting in and out and how to paddle, and in I went.
It was the most comfortable thing I’ve ever sat in.
She pushed me out into the lake.
The word “bliss” is perfect. It feels like a word that would actually seep along the water from the base of the bow cutting the water, glimmering out in perfect ripples along the side of the kayak. Blissssssssssss.
We spent the next two hours paddling around Pete’s Lake, chatting about life and the value of having nature as your drug. It was oddly quiet; usually it’s one of the busiest campgrounds. Our kayaks cut the glass surface of the lake. Common loons wailed in the southern corner. The sun shone for the golden hour and began to create silhouettes as it tucked behind the trees. It was amazing to see the lake from this perspective. I spent my childhood summers swimming at the day use area, but never going beyond its bordering buoys (fear of drowning, fear of mucky water, always fear). The lake was much bigger than I thought it to be, with various bays and treasures along the shoreline.
I could’ve spent a lifetime in that kayak.
I’m considering selling all my possessions and living in one.