It was a beautiful, blue-eyed day with high, wispy clouds cast in patterns across the sky. It would have been very warm, if not for the strong gusts of wind blowing the trees about and making the inland waters choppy. Late afternoon had come, my projects for the day were done, and it was time for my first kayaking adventure of the season.
Our new kayak was mingled blue and green, like my eyes, and as lightweight as a butterfly. When I tried to launch it, I ended up falling knee-deep in the saltwater, my sandals thoroughly soaked. Huh. Well, so much for my usual party trick of launching myself and balancing before sliding into the seat. This was a new piece of equipment, and not like the old kayaks we had.
The life vest was a bit too big for me, and I hauled on the straps a long time before they fit snugly around my waist. My long hair was piled on the crown of my head, wrapped around and around in a bun and held in place by the usual clips. I had my water bottle, my sweatshirt (if needed), and some sunscreen lip balm in my pocket. I was set.
Eld Inlet is the third of the three inlets at the base of Puget Sound. Budd Inlet leads to Olympia. Indeed, if one comes to the water crossroads of Eld and Budd, you can see the Capitol in the distance. The last inlet is Totten. That one leads toward Shelton. That one is nice, but it faces into the sun, and the glare off the water is rotten.
This was going to be my first trip up Eld. The previous summer I’d done Budd inlet all the way to Olympia, and before that, I’d done Totten (in November. Brilliant, right?). And this was the maiden voyage of our new, lightweight kayak. It all sounded ideal. The kayak would float easily on the water, and move without much trouble or effort from me. This was true. It was also true that lightweight kayaks are terrible for windy days when you’re also paddling against the currents (in my defense, gauging trips by the tide is useless. The waters swirl in random patterns around the islands, coves, and inlets. Terribly annoying).
Despite the bucking of the waves, and the ringing of my mom’s words to “be careful” in my ears, I had plenty of time and energy for enjoying the beauty around me. The fourth of July was nearing, and many people were out in their boats and out on the back decks of their houses, toasting their friends to a beautiful day and a good time. Stinging jellyfish, huge and like a sunset in color, drifted past. If I was in shallow water, and I looked fifteen feet down, I could see the seaweed on the sand below, leaning in the direction of the tide. Cormorants and guillemots flew and swam around me.
My arms ached terribly, but soon the pain settled and I only felt the strength in my arms. I paddled to the crossroads of Eld and Budd, and then veered to the right, moving up the tantalizing unknown of Eld Inlet. It was beautiful, just beautiful, as the western and eastern shores closed around me, and ahead was only one waterway with all its bends and curves.
The wind was rough though. It blew the waves into high peaks, and I had to watch carefully as I paddled. Sometimes the nose of my kayak went prow-first into a wave, pushing through it only to rise, water skimming down the the sleek bow of the kayak. Always, there was the current to contend with. The wind rang in my ears and I decided today was not the most brilliant day to take a lightweight kayak on her maiden voyage.
Finally, my scouting trip was near its end. I had kayaked about several miles, and it was time to head back. The sun was getting lower, and long shadows were reaching out over the water, chilling my arms as the wind blew hard. I had only just turned back for home when a cove caught my eye. At first I thought it was only a shallow cove, but as I looked closer I saw it winding back into the trees. A family were enjoying their time on the shore, and they called out a greeting as I paddled toward them.
The water fell away deeply as I kayaked into this cove. The deeper I went into the cove, the more still the waters became. I was out of the wind. Finally, the water was as still as glass and milky with silt. The trees came right down to the waters’ edge, and I felt I was miles away from civilization. Kingfishers, at least six of them, winged here and there, scolding me. Below the water, silver minnows swam like living currents, sometimes flipping upward into the air to land back in the water with the smallest of splashes. Logs lay embedded in the water, covered in barnacles. There were firs, madrone trees, cedars, and many more along the banks.
I can’t even begin to describe the sacredness of the place. After the buffeting wind, it was stillness itself. I floated on the surface of the water, listening to the song sparrows, and watching the sunlight bend through the trees. A faint breeze blew me, gently, here and there over the surface of the water. I drank it in like the sweetest of drinks. God had made this moment, this place, this time for me. It was a piece of heaven.
I don’t remember much of the journey back. It was a tiring voyage, and I was soaked with water, had a monster in my belly, and was chilled by the wind. But the stillness of that special cove lingered in my mind. That was God’s gift to me. He wraps me in His arms and whispers to me, “I love you.”
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“Following Your Feet, A Young Woman’s Journey”
Page Count: 287 (Second Edition)