While I've been getting better acquainted with far-flung New England paddling locales, I haven't made it out into the Stonington archipelago nearly as much as I would like. July and August are so busy for us that it's tough to rationalize getting out, even in the evenings, since I tend to keep the gallery open- and I've been traveling as well. But on some days I count the minutes to five o'clock- or more likely, wait until those last gallery visitors leave, well after five, and shut the door quickly before gathering my gear. One evening I headed out alone and paddled at a somewhat frantic pace out to Steves Island, trying to leave the day's frustrations behind.
At Steves, intent on doing my duty as a MITA island adopter I found one group taking up the whole island, each tent in its own campsite, including one that was in a place that hadn't been a campsite the last time I checked. I walked around the island quickly, picking up trash, and said hello to some of the campers, although they didn't seem to want to say hello to me, so I kept going, resolving to cover-over the new tent site next time. I never really left my land-bound worries behind and even picked-up a few more en route. The closest I came to losing the heaviness that seemed to follow me was along the south shore of McGlathery Island, where I found a few swells to bounce among. I needed a longer trip.
We have managed to take time off a few times lately to get over to Sullivan Falls. On Monday evenings a band performs in the park, so we play in the falls until the music starts, and go ashore for a picnic with live music. Nate has been spending even more time at Sullivan, since it seems to be his most popular class lately.
But last night, after getting very very tired of talking with people, we got out for a paddle. The air felt clear, still and almost cool. In the harbor, boat reflections saturated the water surface with color, and Rebecca lingered, taking it in, thinking about paintings. She took a few photos, and even though I felt anxious to get moving, it felt good to be unhurried. It reminded me of our first years here, why we came to live in Stonington and why we've stayed. Town had seemed full of talk and hub-bub, and I felt enormously weary of it. But out here it was a different story.
We followed the shore of Crotch Island, practicing a bit along the way, challenging ourselves to turn the boat different ways around tight obstacles, sometimes following the contours of the shore backward, until we went around Sand Island. I landed among some rockweed below some steep ledges- merely because I had never landed there before, and when I saw the view from atop a smooth granite boulder, I felt amazed that I hadn't really noticed such a beautiful spot.
It reminded me of our early days paddling, how it seemed that every time we went out it felt new, even if we were paddling in the same places. And lately, as I've traveled around New England, looking for the best places to paddle, I've become perhaps a bit jaded. I'm a bit rushed, a bit desperate to cover territory that I know I'll never completely connect with the way I do our own backyard. Sometimes it helps to paddle with someone who is showing you one of their favorite spots to see it through their eyes. They're more likely to get out there at the end of the day for a few hours after work, not to crank-out miles or accomplish anything, but merely to enjoy the feeling of the place- to float on the water and take it in.
We followed the contours around the west side of Crotch, watching the sunset turn the shore rocks orange, and meandered, very slowly back through the harbor as lights came on in town.