A Canoeing Adventure (Part IV)
We kept going into the bulrushes, there were no longer any gaps through which to pass the canoe without considerable effort. Larry still stood in the back pushing with the pole and I was trying in vain to move us forward, changing between pushing and pulling. We had reached a point where we could no longer move the canoe this way. Larry and I tried switching spots with him poling in the front and I tried pushing in the back. We carefully switched places several times. (The first time I stood up in the canoe, I was quite nervous about staying balanced and was a bit shaky about walking in the canoe at first.) One of these times when we were switching, I was going to the back, we stood in the middle of the canoe, I had to slide by Larry, yet we had to maintain balance, Larry said, “Dance around each other.” It was like a dance, moving together, balanced, mindful step. Even switching places so Larry was in the front, was not enough to get us through the incredibly thick bulrushes. (Walking through them on the ice had been a totally different experience than attempting to glide a canoe through them.)
Larry uttered, “F***,” to himself as he stood taking in our predicament, but he was still calm, patient, thinking of what to do next. He stepped out of the canoe (the water was shallow coming up mid-calf on him), and began pulling it through the bulrushes. He grabbed the bow, lifted and pulled the canoe forward and past him, then went to the front of the canoe to repeat the process. He was lifting/pulling the canoe and me through at this point with very little water to help lighten the weight. I’m not sure how long he kept this up but it was awhile. I sat in the canoe feeling guilty and utterly ridiculous that I wasn’t helping and that he was essentially carrying me. I felt awkward and bad. (He is in his sixties after all and I’m not even thirty and perfectly capable.)
Larry was sweating and panting, noticeably tiring fast, running out of steam and energy. He couldn’t keep going like this, and I didn’t want him to, I didn’t want him doing all the work nor him having to carry the extra burden of me.
I was relieved when he asked, “Are you okay with getting wet to the knees? I can’t keep pulling you and the canoe. Will you step out and help pull?”
Eager to be of use, “Sure, I’m okay getting wet. Can I take my shoes and socks off first?”
“That’s fine, do what you’d like.”
I bent down, pulled one shoe off and sock, slipped the sock into the shoe and repeated the process with the other shoe and sock. I rolled up my pant legs to just below my knees. Placed shoes under the seat and carefully handed the binoculars to Larry to stow to keep them dry and safe. Inwardly I was hesitant to step in – how deep was it really? Would I get stuck? – ran through my mind. (I had carefully walked to the front of the canoe where Larry stood in the water on the right side of the bow.) Larry instructed me to take my time in finding a place to stand, that I should try to stand on a clump of knocked down vegetation, and be careful that it doesn’t cut my feet.
I stepped in with one foot, feeling for a place to rest it, then put the other foot in the water too. It was cold, but not shockingly so, refreshing, perfectly delightful. I reveled in the moment. I hadn’t gone swimming or even waded this summer, and being the first of October I knew it was probably my last chance for the year. I love water, rivers and lakes, such wild, alive, dynamic places, constantly in motion. The melodious music of it moving, whether rushing over rocks or gently rolling in the wind, is peaceful and brings a renewal of spirit and even strength and courage. There is mystery about a body of water that allures and is breathtaking beautiful. It is life coursing by yet not passing away, especially with rivers, immortal though ever changing. There is a sense of becoming part of it, a connection that is beyond physical, spiritual as well. To step in the water, you feel it all around you, and yet there is more. You become relaxed. Burdens seem to lift and a veil is torn away. You see and feel things as a carefree child, become filled with a sense of wonder as the river gently caresses your body. Water cleanses. Water is sensual in a beautifully innocent way, arousing all of the five senses. It also tells a fascinating story if you stop to listen. Full of life and a source of life. Being near or in water relaxes and heals my soul, in a way I can’t explain, the expression, “healing waters” is so true. I didn’t mind in the least having to be in the water and not just on it, once I knew I wouldn’t get stuck in muck.
Once I was sure of my footing, together we grabbed hold of the canoe and pulled it forward. We kept pulling until the back of the canoe was even with us, then we pushed it so that it was in front of us. Larry stepped back into the canoe, and walked to the front. I followed suit, feeling a little weird about walking in a canoe but trusted Larry. We repeated the process of stepping out into the water at the front, pulling then pushing the canoe, stepping in and walking to the front, and repeat. Larry always waited for me to situate my feet so that I had good footing so that I was standing on something more solid than the silty river bottom. (He may have also worried about my feet getting cut.)
“Here stand on this life vest.” I took it and lay it on top of a clump of vegetation then stood on it.
“How’s that? Good?”
“Yep.” With me standing more comfortably we continued pulling the canoe. As we were heaving it forward, a bird nearby but hidden in the rushes laughed, seemingly at us.
“What kind of bird was that?” I asked Larry, curious to learn more about the wildlife inhabiting this riverine ecosystem.
“A gray breasted big bird.” Larry replied (or something to that affect) so matter- of-fact, it didn’t even occur to me he was making it up. I probably acknowledged with a “huh.”
“No, not really. I’m not sure what it is,” Larry said.
(After the first or second time pulling the canoe together, Larry said, “this is going better, now that I don’t have to pull you and the canoe.”)
We continued the process of pulling the canoe along from standing in the water for awhile. My shoes had slipped forward in the canoe, one was getting wet from us stepping back into the canoe. Going up Schmoker’s by canoe was looking like a very difficult process. Larry paused to think.
“We should go ashore, head for those trees over there [a little to our right] and carry the canoe.” Larry decided it would be easier then continuing to try to go up Schmoker’s.
“There used to be more water in here. I think the beaver dam has altered water flow, shooting it into Goose (Prichard) Lake and the Weaver bottoms, drying out this channel.”
My feet were getting quite cold from being in the water, though not yet numb. I didn’t complain or even mention it to Larry. I didn’t mind too much and I had to help Larry instead of be an extra burden. We had been pulling the canoe for awhile, closing in the gap between us and the shore.