Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Paddle

On our calendar for December 25th, Rebecca had scrawled- in ink- “go kayaking”. No doubt we were hoping for a repeat of last year’s calm day on the water. It may be a little weird to make an appointment, but if we didn’t, chances are that we would end up with something else on the calendar, and we would find ourselves chatting with someone, probably about kayaking, wondering why we weren’t paddling.

As Christmas wishes go, this seems a modest desire, but the weather forecast wasn’t promising. As I bopped around the kitchen to my once-yearly listen to Dave Brubeck’s Christmas album, the north winds began subtly diminishing. By the time I had a casserole ready to go in the oven, it was obvious: time to get the gear together. I put the casserole in the fridge.

We paddled away from the launch. The air temp hovered in the mid-twenties and the sun slipped behind the clouds. We would need to keep moving to stay warm. “Where to?” we asked, but our bows were already pointed toward the sloping profile of Steves Island.

Funny, how often we head for Steves without thinking about it. It’s two miles away- maybe a half-hour paddle if you’re going non-stop, like we were. Maybe because the island is state-owned, and because we’re its “island adopters” for MITA, we feel some sense of ownership (as obviously many other people do). Maybe ownership isn’t the right word- try “stewardship” instead. We’d thought we might stop and pick up garbage- I could see some of the usual fishing debris, but it was cold enough and late enough that it made more sense to keep moving. We stopped short of going around the island, not wanting to disturb the huge raft of ducks on the south side. We headed around St. Helena and back toward town.

When we arrived back at the launch at sunset, we paused. Stonington was about as quiet as we’d ever seen it. There were no boats moving about the harbor, and the town felt subdued, lights coming on in windows here and there. Usually we don’t paddle much in the harbor. It is the domain of fishing boats, probably far more dangerous than anything else we might encounter in our kayaks. But it was so calm and quiet, we had to check it out, following the piers right into our neighborhood. I hovered in the water just across the street from our building, below the lit-up Christmas tree on the deck at the Seasons of Stonington restaurant. A couple of cars chugged past. In the front window of the gallery, a light came on, triggered by a timer, spotlighting Rebecca’s most recent close-up of a lobster boat bow.

It was high tide, so we were able to maneuver among the ledges, over toward Green Head. There were lights on in a few houses, and strings of Christmas lights strewn in the bushes and trees. Framed in a bright window opening, a woman stood at a kitchen counter. Most of the windows though, remained dark. Somewhere, a dog barked. The quiet was overpowering. We drifted awhile among the lobster boats, our toes and fingers beginning to turn numb, and headed back in. A casserole awaited at home.

Oh yes, since it’s Christmas, I should expound on finding something spiritual in nature. You know- the obligatory bla bla bla about what the holiday means to me, being a transcendentalist in the tradition of Emerson and Thoreau. Hmm... let’s not. Let's just say it was awesome, as it is every day, and leave it at that.

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