One particularly calm evening . . .

One particularly calm evening, I took the canoe out onto Lake Superior. This lake, which holds one-tenth of all the fresh water in the world, is not to be messed with. The wrecks of numerous ships, big ships, lay well-preserved deep below the surface. For the past five days, northeasterlies had prevented me from taking the canoe out beyond the harbor and into the open waters. But tonight, with a full moon rising, the normally wild and awesome lake lay silent. A dark, deep blue, in the hour before pure black, the lake mirrored the sky, both of them melting into an edge hard to discern.

I pushed off into the cool night air, cutting a clean slice with the bow. As I left the protective waters of the harbor, an animal-like alertness tingled across every nerve. From land the lake had seemed calm, glasslike. Sitting on top of it, separated only by a thin hull of aluminum, I felt as though I were balancing on the belly of a very large, sleeping beast. With each breath, a quiet, tremendous force pushed me higher, then moments later set me down. Gentle and massive. Spurred by the same unexplained curiosity that dares a child to touch his tongue against metal on an icy January morning, I dipped the paddle into the rich cobalt water. Then again, and again. For many minutes I pushed farther into the deepening night.

Good sense finally took charge and I stopped paddling and looked back. I could see the shore, but not well. I felt the beast take a deep breath. In the stillness my little canoe rose many feet, then just as quickly fell. Another breath, and back down again. This time I noticed that as I rode into a deep trough I completely lost sight of land. Very much alive, and humbled, I carefully turned the little craft at a right angle to the next wave coming my way, and paddled toward the island.

Back in the arms of the cove, I turned and looked over my shoulder again. The lake took another breath, rose up, then easily pushed me the last few feet to shore.

an excerpt from One Thousand Moons, Eddie’s book of images and essays.  © Eddie Soloway

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~ by eddiesoloway on June 19, 2008.

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