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"KAYAKING OTSEGO LAKE"
by Jessica Kuzmier
I was kayaking through New York State's Otsego Lake with my spouse. Our endeavor today was to see how far we could go from Glimmerglass State Park in the northeast section of the lake to downtown Cooperstown in the south. This was the second time we were on the lake, seeing if we could surpass the distance we had achieved last time. Our first venture had been pretty modest. The state park was within a cove of the lake called Hyde Bay. Our first venture had taken us out of the bay, crossing over the lake on one side, and then making our way back. Our second time, I hoped, would take us further than before.
This kayak was an inflatable one, the kind where you carry like an oversize suitcase to the brink of the water. Parking in the nearly deserted parking lot of Glimmerglass Park, the one that wasn't quite near the beach but some distance away in case you wanted to get away from the crowds during the times that existed, we carried the packaged boat down to the shoreline, using a foot pedal to create the phenomenon of a tandem kayak. From package to kayak, it took ten minutes. Instant boat, just add air. Then we were on our way.
This was the second time taking to this lake. The first had been a journey without a rudder, the very first time we had been on the boat. The wind and the current caught us in its grip then, and my novice strokes did very little to create course correction. I sat in the back, my husband in the center where one would be if they trekked solo through the water. My strokes in the current seemed to be as useful as the doggie paddle during a tsunami, at least when it seemed to boil up under the changing wind or other circumstances. Luckily, both the wind and the current had been relatively mild, so correction wasn't that hard to get. It was just the disconcertion of being spun in one direction while paddling towards the other that got me.
Not permanently, obviously, because I was here again. I was in the back, and my husband was in the center. This time, we were with a rudder. A breeze blew and a current ran under us, but the rudder held our placement. Tandem boat this was, the rudder continued the theme by complementing our effort by holding us on our desired course. Again, there wasn't a lot of wind. But the journey was a lot smoother with this newest addition.
In a strange time warp that seemed both a long time and an instant, the shoreline disappeared, the beachhouse of Glimmerglass an imagined mirage that we encountered in some past life. After paddling in some sense of rhythm, it felt as though life had always been this way, a metronome of strokes where the terrain of our lives was this lake. It may have only been a half hour or so, but the disappearing landmarks under the strain of paddling seemed a mirage that existed in some sea yarn I told myself to pass the time and ignore the ache in my arms.
Continue, I did. Despite the pain I felt, I wanted to continue. The strain I felt was something that I relished, a kind of barrier to overcome within myself. I always find it strange to write in digital or on paper this kind of phenomenon, because I can see to the uninitiated where it would sound masochistic. But for me, this was something that I challenged within myself. The fact that I could continue despite the ache, the fact that I enjoyed overcoming this, it was all a kind of obstacle course I liked to create for myself to see if I could get to the other side of the mountain, or at least the lake. There was terrain to cover and discover, and I wouldn't be doing that by going home and turning on the TV. Soon, the ache in my arms dulled, and my body adjusted, realizing the task that had been set upon it in the distance.
Unlike most of the summer, this early September day was crackling with heat. When the sun burst out behind clouds, which was quite often, it was as though we were in some strange version of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Except, instead of saying "water, water, water, and not a drop to drink", it was more like, "water, water, water, everywhere and not a drop to cool". Only the breeze that sung from the sky brought any relief to the drunken serum of the sun's rays, providing enough relief to keep me awake and keep me going.
The wind danced around us, but the rudder gave us the stability to continue on the path that we aimed for. When the wind blew, our corrective measures counterbalanced what nature threw at us. Which was what man's inventions were supposed to do. The general theory in these things is that man was given the intelligence to be able to adapt to the circumstances around him. This kind of thing really has gotten a lot of notice, it seems since man discovered science. Not that this was a very researched thought in my head, with exact dates or figures. But the rudder got me to thinking about what man added to each experience he had. Which was a good thing, because the whole reason why we were out here was because of a man made inflatable kayak. Same with the rudder that sustained us. So even as we continued this solo adventure, it was really an adventure that globalization had brought to us.
I could just lean back, feeling as though I could relax all day like this. After what felt like hours of the hot sun, it was an oasis in the middle of a watery desert. Sometimes I wondered if I enjoyed the strain and effort of the paddling, just so that I could rest like this. This was like a happy hour after a hard day at work. Except I didn't have to worry about hangovers with this one.
Taking breaks like this, I had to be careful, just the way someone would limit oneself to one drink. It would be easy to copout and stay in these quiet enclaves of shade, to just say, let me stay here and call a cab. Resting had its own sense of balance. It was needed to keep me going. In a paradox, it needed also to stop to keep me going. There was a sense of timing to achieve harmony, learning the time and season for all things. A time for effort, a time for rest; a time for stopping, a time for moving on. It was as if in learning the sense of rhythm of this adventure, I was discovering the breath of the trip itself. And in this unfolding, let the lesson begin to reveal, whatever it was supposed to teach me.
This kind of thinking may sometimes feel a little strange, this talk of rhythms and lessons and that sort of thing. After all, I was going on a kayak trip, not to some ashram in India or even Manhattan's Lower East Side. But embarking on the water, with only the heartbeat of my rowing measuring the moments. Even with a partner in front of me, the concentration on such a singular task, the language of silence, the quiet that surrounded me in the shade all lent to a hush of solitude where my thoughts became just quiet enough to shut my chatter but awaken the silent beat somewhere in my spirit that sought harmony in this place that I called my world.
We came upon a park in the distance, looking to me like a picnic area where if we had another vehicle, would have been a good halfway point for me. This place, according to our GPS, was called Three Mile Point Park. Along the way on NY 80 and the county highway which led to Glimmerglass Park, there were signs that dictated Three Mile Point and Five Mile Point. In obvious fashion, these were demarcations of mile markers that led along the way of the lake which would eventually dump itself into the Susquehanna River. The original source of the river, this lake was large enough for a long paddle but not within the boundaries of the Finger Lakes. Three Mile Point Park appeared to be a place where one could put a boat in and head further south to the village of Cooperstown. Maybe in the future, to complete our trip around the lake, to start our journey from here to complete the second half of the lake. For now we were tired, and it was time to get ourselves home.
Perhaps we hadn't completed the entire lake, but we had made more headway than the last time. An improvement, with more territory under our traveler's belts. This lake, a place where we had seen only from the distance on the shore, had now been encountered in a different way and form. Perhaps the next time we went to the state park, we would look across the horizon and remember it in a different way, because it was a place no longer just in the page of imaginary travels. Trails, roads, and other places always changed. The angles would never be mastered, the road would never be memorized. Places from a different place revealed a new personality, an ever layered specimen that could never be fully completed.
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