“I can think of no greater happiness than to be clear-sighted and know the miracle when it happens. And I can think of no more real life than the adventurous one of living and liking and exclaiming the things of one’s own time. ” ~Robert Henri
An early start to the day sees us racing the tides to visit a colony of seals near here.
We get the boats in, just in time and paddle the short distance out to a rocky ledge where our selkie friends are known to congregate at low tide.
We do not venture too close so as not to stress them out, but we can see their velvety bodies slip into the water when they spy our approach. One or two trusting souls hang about on the rocks and watch us watch them. The rest, the shy ones, watch from the water, only getting within 50 feet at the closest. Sea dogs of a sort, they have some curiosity and fascination with us, as we do them, and we spend some time observing one another.
There are also osprey, terns, cormorants, gulls. We aren’t out long, but it is a productive day already.
Back home to gather some of the kids, we then head to lunch at a lovely land’s end marina. We are in our element, and pinching ourselves at our good fortune. No wait, a table by the water, and the best of company.
In the afternoon we walk off our lunch time decadence with a cliff walk trail which leads to an inlet of sorts where we take a swim.
Classic Maine woodland, complete with fairy huts and mushrooms. We soak in the quiet of a natural island pine forest.
We manage to find a path to the water of a little inlet and swim for a time. Salty and warm and lovely.
We are happy campers.
Suffice it to say, I created no art today, but rather took the beauty of the day to gather imagery and impressions for more work in days to come. Tomorrow we shift gears, heading inland to a rented lake home. All of the co-workers have taken the week off and vacation for the lot of us begins in earnest.
I will miss the ocean.
Expect a post here in this space come Sunday, or possibly Monday, depending upon the flow of things. Til then, be safe, wear a mask, be kind to one another.
“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” ― A.A. Milne
I am newly returned from the last of the Big Trips that were slated for what has been an amazing summer. My Hub, along with a few kayaking friends and myself went off grid and out of country last week to paddle a bit in Georgian Bay and to do some exploring and camping in the wilds of Franklin Island. This was to be my own very first ‘Expedition’ in the kayaking world where everything had to be planned and plotted, measured and made-to-fit. It was a big endeavor for me personally and I felt as if I was ‘hangin’ with the big kids’ as I am somewhat of a reluctant paddler.
We crossed into Canada where I opted to go offline to avoid the fees that come with staying connected in a foreign country. And with that unplugging came lots of time to wander around the dusty halls of my own mind, a pleasure I don’t often have the time for in my busy life.
After a long but safe and uneventful drive north, we arrived just in time to gulp down some fish and chips and a well deserved beer at Payne’s Marina where the staff took our late arrival not only in stride, but with quintessential Canadian kindness and welcoming.
We camped at a local provincial park and spent the next day or so readying for our adventure and monitoring the changeable water and skies of this place.
Soon it was time to load the boats and make the 2.3 mile trek across the water to our first campsite on Franklin Island.
We arrived safely to Henrietta Point where I learned how to pitch a tent on and with stones, something I had never done before being more of an Appalachian forest creature in my upbringing.
This place was perfect from many perspectives. We had ample room for all of us to set up camp and there was an area somewhat out of the wind which allowed us to enjoy cooking together in our stony kitchen.
And there were the marvelous ‘Thunder Boxes’ (i.e. outdoor loos) which were not only not smelly for an outdoor loo, they put many indoor situations I’ve visited over the years to shame! I was pleasantly surprised.
During the day I followed the shady places as much as possible to sketch and explore.
And in the evenings, we would take our dinner plates to the windy shore and enjoy the sunset views which were stunning. The company was pretty great as well!
There was much hiking to do along the shore where we could sit and watch the water, or sketch new friends along the way….
While at Henrietta Point, I didn’t get back into my boat, and I might have been happy not to do so until it was time to leave for the mainland again at week’s end. Much of the time, I watched the others go about their watery business on the waves, secure in my desire to remain on shore. I am prone to sea sickness and don’t care for the waves they make in these inland seas, all confused and bouncing every which way.
This all being so, we’d heard the winds were slated to change, and that would mean our campsite would become a more exposed and less desirable place to be. We discussed as a group and opted to pack up camp and see what else Franklin Island might have to offer.
That day I joined our group and paddled the waves. All went well. I don’t mind the odd wavey day, provided said waves behave themselves, which they did. It was a long day in our boats exploring and scouting camp sites and we gratefully arrived at our new place at Cunningham Bay. No Thunder Box, but otherwise it was lovely.
Notice that our tent was there along the water, and that all was calm and glassy. We were in a protected bay away from the larger water to the west. But over night the wind turned on us once more and suddenly there were waves lapping at our door and the wind whipped the tent fabric into a frenzy. All in the middle of the night!
This all made for a very difficult night full of fear and anxiety on my part, the details of which I won’t go into. Suffice it to say, the following morning we picked up our little home and moved it into the woods on shore a bit further which felt safer in many ways.
When the more paddle-y folks opted for an epic day on the water the following morning, I stayed home on shore to enjoy some alone time and to try to come to an even keel of the soul in my own little ways….
Eventually, I spotted my friends on the horizon and they came home exhausted.
I whipped up some dinner which we all worked to fry up together. Everything tastes better by the water, don’t you think?
The very next day was already Friday, the day we were due back on the mainland. We had camped and paddled and cooked and swam in our birthday suits on a daily basis. We had prepared food together over camp stoves and enjoyed shooting stars and crackling fires in the evenings.
I for one spent a fair amount of time in a state of anxious agitation about whether I would have to paddle in sickening conditions, or whether the wind would blow so hard as to blow our tent down or whether our next camp site would have a thunder box or not. Truth be told, I spend a fair amount of time in my ‘regular day-to-day’ life in a state of anxious agitation and going on this trip was a way to try and temper that. (Perhaps every trip is a way to try and temper that!) Maybe if I behave the bravest, and test myself a bit along the way, I can get a little break from that day to day state. In some ways, I think it works. I think we must always be challenging ourselves.
Toward the end of the trip, my Hub Tony asked if I might take this sort of trip again. I was not ready to answer. Perhaps I am still not. We were so fortunate to have great weather and that our little group got along so well. ( I have heard horror stories from other trips.) I wanted to hold my own and I think I did, making wise choices as to when to be on the water and when not to be. And I am better for the going on this particular trek. For me, a homey, gentle soul, a lot about the idea of this adventure was daunting. And in many ways, I was very brave to attempt it. But I was also with friends whom I trusted not to put me in danger. The only real danger was in my head and maybe in my so easily queasy stomach.
And so, what of this ‘Behave the Bravest’ business, you ask? Well, while wandering the dusty hallways of my ever active mind while off the grid, I realized that I did not do a proper blog based announcement of my art work being featured on Nuala Kennedy’s gorgeous new album called, of course, Behave the Bravest. The themes in the album are epic and watery in the most folky ways and I am proud to be the visual part of it, my art work being made to look even more fantastic by the design team at 16K Design Works who did a fantastic job with the raw work. This album has been a soundtrack to my summer of sorts this year and many of the tunes were in my head as I navigated this recent expedition.
Difficult adventures cause us to look inward and confront our most shadowy sides of self….
And by plumbing those depths we can learn more about ourselves, enabling our best selves to come back to civilization and that version of reality to readily serve the world.
I am not quite back to my best self. I am still tired and sore, not feeling quite caught up. But I am better for my time and experiences amidst these inland seas. As always with a challenging time, I have learned something of myself and I am glad of it.
I have written before of our past journeys to a magical little spot of land in the middle of a not-too-very-far-away inland sea…. Kelley’s Island is a few hours’ drive and a brief ferry trek across the waves and we enjoy a different side of it every time we visit. (For past inland island tales, click here and here.)
This year, due to a traffic back up on the highway on our way northward, we arrived rather late to set up camp. It was windy and threatening predicted rainfall. No pictures were taken, no sketches were made. Tents were pitched against the bluster and the decision was made to stay off the water until the following morning when the annual Kelley’s Island Poker Paddle was slated to begin as darkness was upon us….
We slept fitfully in our tents, which while protecting us from the elements, still allow in the roar of the waves and the voice of wind; and awoke to angry skies and rumors of badly-tempered waves.
Alas we found that for this day at least, the poker paddle event was canceled. So a few of us hopped into cars to drive the island roads and survey the moods of the waves battering the rest of the island. Lake Erie is a shallow lake compared to its cousins and just an overnight’s wind can kick up some surf.
Some spots seemed more dangerous than others. And we contemplated this temperamental lake.
I snapped pictures of not only the lake’s moodiness, but signs that autumn was already more into full gear just this far north of us.
Eventually, there were signs that although a circumnavigation of the entire island might be in poor judgement, there might be enough sunshine out to warrant some play amongst the waves in the safety of the little harbor at our camping place….. And some intrepid souls decided to head out to play.
I debated. On the one hand, I have this boat I like to spend time in.
But I was a bit chilled, and was enjoying being beached.
I had just brewed a pot of tea.
But in the end, I opted for a little time in the rough water, more as practice time than anything else.
I was rewarded with a few seconds here and there of good surfing. And while the wind was cold, the water was not, so we practiced getting in and out of the boats to stay up on emergency skills in case of a water-bourne mishap one day. Hopefully we will not have to use these skills in real life, but it is good to keep up to date. And to test my stomach. I had been on the ginger for a number of days, and thankfully, had no sea sickness.
I came into harbor sooner than most, but eventually we all caught up with each other to warm up and see what else the day had to bring us.
While the more intrepid stayed out on the water for more surfing, I sat with my sketchbook and watercolors and watched the colors dance on the water and the sky.
Eventually we decided an afternoon hike might be in order.
Kelley’s has a rich history of industry and quarrying and so one is likely to wander across remnants of days gone by being recaptured by the forest.
We continued on through the forest, following the voice of the lake….
…aided by what felt at times like the spirit of the place. Most places have a spirit of sorts and the spirits of Kelley’s are alive and well and willing to show us the way.
This island is not a really big place and soon, we had once again reached the water’s edge….
Kelley’s is renowned for a number of special things such as glacial grooves. On this hike we visited the Alvar region of the island….
This side of the island does take a beating from the perpetuation of the waves.
There are even fresh water ‘tide’ pools of sorts which shine like jewels.
We walked along pebbly shores which were seemingly made up of all shades of beigey whiteness.
Upon closer inspection, of course, we see that no two stones are alike. Some speak of lives lived ages upon ages ago.
While others remind us that to show our true colors in a sometimes seemingly-bland world may be the best gift we can give.
I broadened my collection of heart-shaped stones, recognizing that to show the shape of a heart in a hardened world often means to have been a bit broken along the way. And perhaps tossed about on the shoreline before being picked up and treasured.
The light began to change and to call us back through the woods and back toward camp…
We greeted the forested friends along the way.
Finding our way back along the path toward a dinner of perch and a more restful night in the tent.
Fortunately, the winds and waves of one day gave way to a calm and gentle beauty of the next. We were greeted with a spectacular sunrise just outside our tent door, which I watched for awhile….
…before finally deciding to step outside and brew some coffee.
It was to be a perfect day of paddling, at least in my opinion. Placid and calm.
It was like four hours (11-ish miles) of a water-based moving meditation. At the end I was deliriously high from it all. I was thankful the Kelley’s Island Kayaking Club opted to wait a day for the official event and thankful that my more adventurous cohorts still got their play time on the waves the day prior. We all got what we needed and wanted from the weekend. The rest of the pictures from our trip to Kelley’s are merely those in my mind’s eye. I didn’t have the camera out for the tail end of this tale which involved some sunshine, a few Lake Erie water snakes popping their heads out of the water to say hello (though I kept missing them by a hair’s breadth of a moment!), grilled snacks and a poker game and finally, some well deserved brews for our group at the end of it all.
With a somber ferry’s ride back to the mainland and more cornfields than we cared to witness, we were eventually back home where we have traded in the sound of waves crashing for the far off hum of the nearby highway. Seagull’s cries have been replaced by the sound of sirens and car-horns in the nearby city streets. But if I listen more closely, I can hear the cluk-cluk-clucking of my chickens out back, and the sighful snores of my dogs. Down the hall, I hear my hub back at his work-a-day. Life is good. I am thankful for little island side trips as a gentle reminder of this.
Yesterday we took the opportunity to head out of town and onto the water at a magical place in Kentucky called Grayson Lake. It wasn’t always a lake, but was created to give folks a break from unpredictable floods in the area and to provide better water quality for the people who call it home. The Sandy River gorge area now boasts this amazing lake with tendrilled waterways that boaters of all ilk can explore.
The Hub was keen to try some new skills out on ‘real’ water as my gift to him at Christmas time was a set of lessons on how to do this:
Clearly, he took his lessons very seriously and will now have new things to show off in Maine later in the summer!
Everywhere there is wonder to behold. Watery patterns and rivulets captured in sandstone read like a language from the ancients, should we just be able to translate them.
Water has fallen and flowed for thousands upon thousands of years, shaping this valley, and now, filling this lake.
We delight in playing under the waterfalls which can sometimes be quite dramatic after a rain. On this day, they were mere trickles.
But even trickles have their own special breed of mystical lure.
Some avenues looked like they would lead to dead ends,
but if you know where to go, and when to keep going, you can find hidden gems such as this lagoon and it’s waterfall.
We opted to lunch at this sweet place.
The stone walls at Grayson are fantastic. Dripping with mineral deposited streaks like some giant’s paint strokes.
And around every bend was beauty to behold…
I’m still working on some sketches to share with you over at my Facebook and Twitter pages in the coming days, but wanted to share with you a bit of our adventure. (I got a little sidetracked with some chicken yoga earlier day. What else can I say?) But it’s days like these in places like Grayson which feed this artist’s heart. What feeds yours?