HEALTH + FITNESS
Voyage of Discovery
Zen and the Art of Kayaking
Story and Photos by Jonathan Burke
The pond breathes vapor in the cool of the morning.
The tendrils exhaled above the glassy calm. I take a moment.
The dark surface is betrayed only by the faintest yellow and pink. The cradle of the moon hangs not too high in the sky. A bright star stands off on its own.
I untie the straps, pull the kayak from the bed of the truck and heft her on my shoulder. I put her down in the water on a cushion of beach grass. I fetch my paddle and don my life jacket.
The excitement began the day before as I assembled the gear and rigged the truck. Already, the invigoration of the water and salt air. I woke early. The first fade of blue was in the sky on the drive to the launch. I backed the truck to the water.
Conditions are pristine. I settle comfortably into the seat and push off. The kayak goes free of the shore. I take my first strokes heading North into the waters of Sengekontacket Pond.
The silhouette of the inland shore falls away in the fresh murkiness of high tide. The cool and salty air is sweet and pungent. I inhale. The wind barely murmurs. The mechanics move the kayak forward.
I coast through the small channel. The white rumps of a paddle of ducks swim away from me. The white streaks on their beaks turn this way and that. I ghost past houses and docks. A lone golf hole flag stands still in the shadow.
A peaceful inlet surprises me. The small body is sculpted into the side of the pond. Green marsh grass rims the sides. I contemplate whether to explore. I cross off a ways.
Some light begins in the sky as I round the Northwest corner. The kayak glides on top the water. A narrow sandy beach stretches on the shore. A patch of the pond is filled with the tiniest seas imaginable. Each moves of its own accord. The crests shimmer.
A thick bank of white clouds sits on the East horizon. I will not see the sunrise this morning. Nonetheless the light is striking. A large mass of cloud is upturned low over the center of the pond. The dense cover rumbles with darkness. Patches of blue and white puffy clouds are around the sides.
The sea laps the kayak. A group of morning walkers ambles the bike path. I stroke the North East bend. Little Bridge lays off to the side. The other end of the pond will be a pull. A light wind is on my beam and forward quarter. I make steady strokes. The worries leave my mind. The kayak presses forward.
Activity swirls above. One bird in a steep dive. Another in a looping turn scaling a ridge of wind. Others transit higher above.
Daylight has taken over. The ways of the water are fascinating. Some sections rippled, some with little waves, others calm. An understanding of boundaries seems to exist.
The barrier beach is to port. Golden yellow shimmers in the horizontal gap above the cloud bank.
I pay close attention. The moment will not last long. Then the beaming sun appears. Little seas slap the hull. The small sand dunes, the beach grass and the seagulls slip by.
I paddle through a shallow inlet.
A larger inlet appears. I round the grassy point. The inlet has been carved upwards into the wetlands. A flock of seagulls squeals and dives for bait. I feel deep pleasure. Fish break the surface. The southern destination is a letdown. My prow is pulled into the rocks by the current of a culvert. This little drama was dull by comparison to the diving seagulls and breaking fish. A few hard strokes and I am out.
I point my bow diagonal across the pond. The woods of the Caroline Tuttle Preserve are on the Southern shore. Two geese fly over the water side by side heads outstretched honking as they go. Sarson island lays in the pond’s middle. The western shore lures me.
More coves and inlets are discovered. Beach and marsh grass grow in the sand. Scrub trees and shrubs with white flowers are back of the beach. A stand of piney woods reminds me of colorful balloons.
I drift now and again just to enjoy. The birds talk and sing. The woods reach the shore in places. The serenity is sublime.
I turn into Major’s cove. The voyage is not yet done. The Felix Neck Sanctuary fills the shore. A southerly wind now on my nose. I make strokes and focus on my form. I am beginning to feel the morning’s excursion in my arms. The natural habitat of the sanctuary—home only to wildlife—gives solace in a complex world. Geese float near the shore. I pull around into a small cove. An egret stands on skinny legs. It lifts off with only a slight bend of its knees.
Houses adorn the head of Majors Cove. I cut back across. The final stretch to Pecoy Point—where I launched —is a sail in the following wind.