Glassy seas with the lightest of rains. Occasional oyster catchers squeel and seagulls cry to punctuate this otherwise dead-calm suspension in space. Grey skies aren’t dark enough to occlude flickers of light on the water or dull the green from the cedars on shore. The only real movement on the water is the kayak roughing the water enough to send ribbons streaming from bow and stern like a gown as she glides across the Salish.
These are the conditions of early mornings in the summer as the sun rises to lift the blankets of vapor off the sea and low-lying pockets of shore which seem to try with might to become part of the water world. These are the conditions of Spring as longer days bait thawing hands and restless minds to explore a little further from home. These are the conditions of Fall as we all take stock of what we love. Today was such a day a fellow paddler and I shared.
Paddling a boat on water is ancestral to all of us. Never the less it takes some time for even the most seasoned bipedal paddlers amongst us to reawaken our bodies to a foreign mode of transport. Once tuned into our vessel my companion and I synchronized to a rhythm of resonance that carried us miles from our berth. We weren’t held by time or obligation but by imagination, wonder and innate connections with brothers and sisters before us who saw land across the water and paddled there.
We were confronted with fears as Stellar Sea Lions held their head high above the water and snarled at us protecting their brood. We were watched warily by eagles who may have mistaken our presence as a threat to their next forage as though we had traveled all this way to pick at the salmon washed ashore. Well, not today at least. We had our minds on our bellies as we began the last mile home. Fixation is a funny thing. It can be blinding, and it can take magnificent forces to distract it.
Today was the first time my companion had been in a kayak and paddled to remote islands under his own power, memories that can last a long time for anyone. Today was special though. As we approached the northern edge of San Juan Island four Biggs Killer Whales turned the corner not 100 yards from us. Plumes of water vapor erupted from the broken water as each came up to breathe. We sat frozen with appreciation and for 45 minutes there were six of us mammals sharing this little piece of the Salish Sea together. We forgot about hunger or the dull ache in our backside. We laughed aloud as they circled around and fed just offshore. We laughed at our luck and our ignorance to most things. These orcas were masters of this space and we got to witness it. These are ancestral moments. To witness and remember will bring us back to the things we love. I hope to share more days like this with others.