Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The wind, the rain

Rain today adds punctuation to a cool and cloudy summer and while most have not enjoyed the season, it is and has been the best of canoe weather. I find the hot and sunny days on the water to be far more unpleasant than any other.

I start in the big lake with a big south wind and some somewhat big waves. Soon, out of the protection of the cove, I confront the occasional whitecap. The wind is at my back, but the waves are abeam and typical for this lake, choppy and random. I roll and toss, turn and twist, foot high waves, sometimes two feet high, and I use my paddle as a rudder almost as often as I use it for propulsion. I only have to paddle 3/4 of a mile to the calm of the bay. Once in awhile a wave slaps the side and a fountain of water bursts skyward, some of it landing in the canoe. I watch the bow as it plunges on the next wave, over and over sinking low, coming within an inch or two of dipping water. My camera stays secure in its case. This is too close to swimming. If I was in winter water, I would not be here.

The bay is calm, as usual. I see a few cormorants, the first in several months. I cut north, downwind across the bay, knowing that my return south will benefit from the west islands with many places to tuck in out of the wind.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

as it should be

The day is gray and the weather is changing. This afternoon a small craft advisory is in effect for the Salish Sea area. The morning wind settles as I portage down to the big lake and I put in on pleasant silver-gray waters, paddling with the wind at my back as I head north. It has been some time since I've been in my canoe. My artwork has kept me very busy this month and one doesn't turn their nose up to such things in a field where so many seem to just struggle.
I have a fine tailwind.

The waves are small and the canoe moves with ease.

In the east channel of the burial island, the beaver scent mounds have been freshly dressed, new mud and wet tracks leading to the tops of the dirt piles. The musky odor of castoreum is there, but only when I get my nose up close.

Everything is as it should be.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Guide - August 20

An artist, a new friend, meets me at the house for the portage east to the big lake. Jerry hasn't canoed a lot, but he takes it all in, he's up for the portage and he has no time restraints. He is canoe material. We paddle up the lake and in to the big beaver lodge. Lilly pads are browning now and the dense field of green plates is thinning, but there are still flowers. We get out at the new street end park/reserve that meets the lake right near the lodge and look over the fine work that a diligent group of volunteers has been engaged in. We each deliver a 5 gallon pail of water to one of the new trees that they have planted. Then we return to the canoe and poke the bow into the beaver forest. The water is down a foot from its highest and entry to the beaver tangle is now blocked, but I point out how every bit of wood is gnawed. Then we wrap around west into the east marsh. Here, Jerry takes out his good camera, the big art making one, and I paddle alone. Recently, two people, out of the goodness of their hearts, provided a place for me to make art for week, all my needs cared for. I feel especially warm inside as I guide the canoe in and out of the cattails, Jerry's eye in the camera, the click-snap of his camera firing as the scene ever changes. I really don't want him to pick up his paddle. I'd rather that he just keep making art.

He has never seen the arboretum, where we finally land, so we take a long indirect portage so that Jerry can see the lay of the land. I take no photos myself. I write no notes in the canoe. I am busy...I am the guide.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The favor

There is the very lightest of mist in the air. It is invisible and only its touch on bare skin tells of its presence. The ground shows no dampness nor does my jacket. These drops are so light that they fail to descend earthward.
Most days when I paddle out there is an intent on observation, although that may not always occur. As I portaged to the south lagoon this morning I wondered what my purpose was. It seemed that today I only needed to feel the paddle working in my hands. This is the tool of the canoeist. Canoes come and go, they are vehicles, they carry you, but the paddle, that is different. I carve my own paddles and this one is of cherry. It is finished with linseed oil, so there is not even a thin layer of varnish between the wood and my hands. With each use it acquires stains, buffs and scratches that tell of each day it has been in the water. The shaft and grip get smoother with every use. Every once in a while I wipe it with more oil, an action that is more a returning of the favor than it is a chore.

I circle the bay, stopping and passing through the usual places, a slight lean to the left when paddling on that side, a slight lean to the right when paddling the other. The paddle has returned the favor.

Monday, August 2, 2010

calm in the salish sea

I put in from the ravine that leads down to Elliot Bay. The sound is calm today and the only waves, small ones at that, seem to be the remnants of wakes from the long distance tugs and ferries that are silhouetted by the low clouds that were fog just an hour ago. Kelp bulbs stand out in such smooth water. Two toy ship drivers momentarily disturb the peace. I move on.

The other night, I showed one of my short canoe videos, and someone said that it was quite meditative and wondered if I meditated. My wife pointed out later that I didn't answer the question. Scientists have wired Tibetan monks and found that there is a remarkable level of brain activity when the meditate. Maybe I am wired differently, but my mind is on "go" when I walk or canoe by myself. Alone, their seems to be nothing I can do to shut it off. Alone, in the repetition of the paddle, of the step, I am never bored.

The water here, west of the park, is gray. It is gray like glacial water, but the gray comes from a clay deposit that comes out from under the bluff and runs into the water. Sometimes, I collect the flat stones that form from that clay. Sometimes, they look like ancient axes, or boomerangs, or pieces of jigsaw puzzles.

A great blue heron has come and gone in silence while I scribble my notes.I head into the locks. There is a bunch of toy ships here today. I forgot that it is Monday and people are scurrying back from long weekends. The lockmaster sends the toyships into the mammoth large lock. I am sent, alone, into the small lock. Me and my 16 foot canoe ride the water up, alone, to the delight of the day's tourists. I, also, think that my canoe is the most interesting boat in the locks.

Some of the large fishing boats are loading up to head out from Fishermen's Terminal.
I take out there, and portage back over to Elliot Bay.