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A Breathe of Cold Water

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What I remember most was the heat. The smooth, cool blanket of water almost heavenly compared to the heavy, throbbing pulse of the searing heat above. And with the sun beating down on us with every breath we took it was an easy decision to ditch our kayaks and swim.


Almost as stifling as the heat was my mood. For some reason that day I was feeling out of it. It might’ve been partly because I had gone kayaking the day before and had no desire whatsoever to go again. Kayaking from my Gram’s cottage, along the length of the lake it sat by, up a smooth river and onto a calmer, although smaller lake, two days in a row was not something I was eager to do again. It wasn’t even my idea in the first place. It was my cousin’s. But I didn’t really want to be alone at the cabin for two hours, so I went, silently fuming in my kayak when they all went faster than me. Apparently, I’m a slow kayaker.


The farther we got from land, it seemed the more and more I sunk back into my head. My paddles began to slow, my muscles unwilling to move. It was a struggle not to scream in frustration. I must’ve been giving off some kind of aura because at one point my mom stopped and said, “If you’re that upset then you can turn around and go back. If not at least pretend you’re having fun.”  So I sighed, swallowed my pride, and kept going.


By this point we had reached the smooth “nature” part of the journey. The choppy, white capped water got shallow suddenly. It smoothed out and became clear.  It was like glass, untouched by humankind. The water was surrounded on both sides by trees and plants that would sometimes bend over the bank, covering over head. We barely talked as we paddled slowly, the only sound the rough scrape of one of our paddles as they pushed against the sand. Slowly, I was beginning to relax.  And yet, there was still an itch in my mind, something keeping me from fully enjoying the trip.


By the time we entered the lake, my muscles and my body were screaming, not just from paddling but from the sun as well. We moved a little ways into the lake and before I could stop myself I asked “Can we swim?” My voice seemed to echo around the silence of the lake. There was a slight pause in our small group as the question bounced around. My mom looked back at me, her brows slightly furrowed and yet a half smile on her face. “Why not?”


As we got out and pushed our kayaks onto the shore I felt a surge of adrenaline flow through my body. Maybe this was what I needed.  As we waded into the water we realized pretty quickly that the water got deep very fast. My brother, being the youngest and the shortest, decided it might be best for him to stay in the shallower end of the lake. My cousin Meghan and I, being the same age and about the same height, were able to go much farther. I’m not sure which one of us had the idea first. What really surprised us was that when we asked to swim across the lake, my mom said yes.


We began to make our way across, the water too shallow to swim well, and yet too deep to successfully walk. So we set off at a slow motion, awkward run, our arms flailing, trying to propel us faster, our legs slowly and slowly coming off up the ground. The life jackets tightening and floating up above our heads too soon. But what made it harder was the shaking of our bodies, breathless gasps of laughter as we tried to swim. I remember the exact moment our feet stopped touching the ground. The moment when the life jackets fully supported us. I felt myself relax. And as the tension that had gripped me all day finally washed away in the waves, I promised myself that for the rest of this trip- this vacation - I wouldn’t worry about a thing. Because whatever was bugging me, it wasn’t worth it.   The moment left me with a sense that maybe sometimes, it was best to just let it go.  Then, life would be that much more enjoyable for me, and the others who joined me on the journey. I guess all I needed was a breath of cold water to put things into perspective.




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