I finally got the kayak out on the water. I am blessed to have several choices to paddle on, and this morning I headed out to a place called Wide Waters on the Erie Canal, about a ten minute drive from my home. This is the first weekend in quite some time that we did not have some planned activity taking place, and I was relishing the thought of getting out on the water.
I could feel my pulse and my thoughts slowing down with each passing moment on the canal. That centered, peaceful feeling is one I know well, and one that I always look forward to. Like many folks, I have a special bond, a connection with the water, and when I allow myself time to make that connection, the rewards are always bountiful.
I keep my kayak behind the garage, and I am always careful when I first pick it up to make sure I have no unwanted hitchhikers, such as a snake or a wasp nest. Seemed the coast was clear today. After that first ten minutes of paddling, though, I noticed a snail moving slowly around the front of the kayak. I watched him moving patiently along, not leaving the slimy trail of his cousin, the slug. He carried his home on his back, and seemed purposeful about his movement. Five minutes later he disappeared around the arc of the hull.
It got me thinking about the various relations that I could spot and identify on my glide along the canal. Now, I am a Christmas tree grower and a small time nurseryman, but I could write a book on the various trees and shrubs that I cannot identify by name. I decided to enlist my awareness and see how many different plants and animals I could actually put a name to during my time on the water.
Immediately, a kingfisher flew across the canal in front of me, quickly followed by a number of swallows. Looking higher, I spotted a sea gull. I know, there are many kinds of gulls. To me, they are all sea gulls!
I saw black locust and black walnuts, multiflora roses and sumac. There were striped maples and red maples, red osier dogwoods and goldenrod. I was just wondering why in this water rich environment I hadn’t seen any willows, when a giant black willow appeared in front of me, crown half dead, a certain majesty in it’s life journey, half dead, half alive, and both halves no doubt fulfilling need, providing oxygen, food and shelter. I saw several “sundance” trees, also known as poplars or cottonwoods. A flock of mallards swimming along the edge Mom and 8 or 9 mostly grown kids.
Wild grape vines proliferated the south side, and bull rushes on the north. I saw purple loosestrife and mallow.
Some time ago, when I was taking a naturalist training course with one of my mentors, Jon Young, I learned to give names to plants that I did not know the recognized name of. Near some loosestrife was a large plant resembling a milkweed in some ways, but with a much larger blossom, pink, about 8 inches across and the plant was about four feet tall. To me, now, it will always be known as “Pink Fuzzy Erie Flower”.
I almost didn’t go out. The thunderbeings were very present. I’m glad I took the risk. I got to spend some time with some relations on this journey, some of my fellow travelers, each fulfilling it’s original instructions from the beginning of time.