The air is pure, crisp and clear as Fall begins. Daniels Lake is unusually glass calm. The sun reflects on the lake and the sky is blue. Not even a leaf rustles. Jim still sleeps after a long week of fishing, guests and work.
Dusty and I head down to the dock, stopping at the cabin for my life jacket.
After seeing me off, Dusty will sit in a chair on the porch of the cabin until I return.
I turn my kayak over, flicking out a few of Nature’s loathsome creatures, slugs. I climb in, and put my basket with camera and water bottle between my legs and climb in. The kayak slides quietly in to the water. The cool air grazes my face and I breathe deeply.
Silence. It fills my senses and I listen…to nothing. It’s hard to find silence in today’s 24/7 connected world. I crave it. It fills me with peace and contentment. It convinced me to move to Daniels Lake, far from “the maddening crowd.”
The water is clear and I watch the spawning salmon, swimming slowly now, as their bodies turn bright red and the end of life nears. An undisciplined school of minnows swims by while a couple of hopeful rainbow trout look for salmon eggs.
I paddle lazily to the right of the dock, where the grasses grow, not quite ready to leave Dusty’s cove. A dragonfly hitches a ride, looking for mosquitoes. A head pops up out of the water. It’s Emmett Otter and the River Band.* I move left, they move right, the quartet of otters’ curiosity overrides caution and they follow me; then I follow them.
I paddle lazily on, still in Dusty’s Cove. So much to see, feel and smell. The conflicting world evaporates as each moment unfolds. A visiting pair of trumpeter swans swims gracefully by. An immature eagle swoops, and then settles in to watch the salmon, making plans for breakfast. Spawning time is theatre time and attracts a wide audience of critters.
I leave the cove and paddle to the middle of the lake, which is unusually still, and calm. I am the only one on the lake and I revel in it. I stop paddling and gently drift, absorbing the sun, water and air. Something startles a sky-is-falling family of mergansers that comically runs on the water.
A more sophisticated mallard family of 12 swims near shore.I paddle past the cove that holds children’s water toys, silent now. During the summer it is filled with the sound of happy children playing. We wave to each other when I paddle by. The little raft house with its wooden swing that putts out from shore is tied up now. As I paddle past a small island with a single cabin, a loon pops up next to my kayak. Gratitude comes with every breath. This small world is pure with only the beauty and ravages of nature not manmade disturbances.
It’s good to be away from the rest of the world. I am so lucky; it still takes my breath away.
The sun is warm and even though I only wear a thin long-sleeved shirt and life jacket, I’m a little too warm. I glide into a shady area and sigh happily when the cool breeze flows over me. I paddle on, watching, listening, and feeling the day. Nothing else matters.
After an hour, I paddle near shore curving around the end of the lake, pointing the kayak home. Near the dock, I glide close to shore, noticing the fall colours and the bright red wild currants. I put a few in my basket and think about transplanting them to my berry garden. Another loon pops up near me. I stop and watch him. I feel like the happiest person in the world. I am the happiest person in the world!
As I near the dock, Dusty comes down to greet me. I bring the kayak next to the dock pointed to my take-out point. I wear rubber boots so I can step in the shallow water instead of heaving myself onto the dock. This is my first time trying this alone with no one to hold the kayak steady.
I put my leg cautiously into the water. Hmm, a little deeper than I thought. I make the final move to get out and fall into the lake, drenching myself. Dusty sits and looks at me, trying not to laugh. I finally get myself to a standing position, climb out of the water and pull the kayak onto land. I squish up the hill with Dusty by my side, water dripping everywhere. I am soooo happy!
*Emmett Otter and the River Band—a much read out loud children’s book
Oh Alaska, 29 years ago I never even wanted to visit. Now, I never want to leave.