by Keith Bridgman
the cool air of morning hovers over the quiet hours, is when I feel most
at home, most in tune with where I am, while fatigue continues to invade
my eyes. Before the rays of daylight evaporate the darkness, while the
last remnants of the pre-dawn cling to life, how important are the
moments spent drifting alone on the currents are then realized. It is
the last calm before the day and the last silence of the morning that
awakens me. More often than they should, the momentís slip away
unnoticed, until I look back and reflect on the experience. It is then
my heart is warmed by what my eyes witnessed, and my thoughts drift
affectionately to what was there, to the emotion of the moment,
suspended on the glide of my canoe toward that rendezvous of time and
place. It is good for the soul to do such things, for it is during those
times, the gift of the small pleasures of life become real.
The sweet tone of the paddle keeping time with the swirls and eddies as the wooden blade presses against the water and propels the canoe silently over the surface is what I enjoy the most, and least, as muscles not recently used are again called into service. The perfected motion as the paddle is carefully raised at the end of each stroke, and caressed into place for the next, the obedient turn of the bow as a gentle brace is applied are such things from which I seldom tire. That first stroke of the morning, during the stillness, when the only sound is the muffled gurgling of the paddle, and when anticipation is highest, create the most enduring images. As each stroke blends with the next, their collective action becomes a special memory harboring its own significance, its own connection to that gift.
The solitude and calmness of spirit is what I seek while canoeing and few things offer a better blend of events to fulfill those ideals. Iíve grown to appreciate that concept more with age. The slow and simple method of drifting down a backcountry stream or across a secluded cove embraces the essence of those words. Often, the trials of making a living create a delinquency from the pursuit of those desires, but in retrospect, because of the gaps created by that delinquency, the experience generates even more pleasure on the few occasions I do get away.
I find it matters little what season reflection on canoeing occurs, for each season brings its own character into the realm of small pleasures. But, in late spring when contrasts of weather are blending into the early days of summer, I discover is the best time for creating a reflection. Then, when the hot days of summer are finally extinguished by the arrival of fall, and when the chill of winter invades the hemisphere, thoughts of canoeing eventually succumb to the inevitable. Even so, during the depths of the coldest months, I often reflect on those moments spent drifting across the waters under the spell of the mornings of summer. There is comfort in revisiting those days, even if only in thought, for when the frost on the canoe glisten's in the half-light of a winterís morning, I know life granted me another season, and once again, soon, I shall suspend myself above the trials of living, and seek the gift of small pleasures.
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