Last week, I was fortunate enough to kayak the Loxahatchee River. Late Friday afternoon, I set off from Riverbend Park towards Trapper John's Cabin until I was stopped by downed trees. This was one journey where the destination was not the primary objective and there was no disappointment in not attaining my goal. As soon as I entered this primordial section of the river, my goal was just to be here. These vines felt like a veil to some mysterious world, but even they seemed more significant than what might exist beyond them. The way the late afternoon light lit up the vines made them glow and cast a reflection in the water that mixed with the rich red tannins and created hues that reminded me of Rembrandt or even Vermeer in their luminosity.
The vines around the corner beckoned me to continue, even though I knew it was unknown territory and potentially dangerous. As I was putting in, another kayaker was returning and he cautioned me to be careful as the current was moving and there were many downed trees and branches that could snag my boat given the shallowness of the water. To make this image, I had to wrap myself around a branch and wedge the kayak into the trunk to stop from flipping. I really was hanging on to watch, which is somehow the way I feel when life seems to be moving forward and I would rather stay where I am for just a few seconds longer until I am ready to rejoin the flow.
This alligator was spectacular. It was so perfectly situated on the bank, its body making a graceful curve with claws outstretched to take purchase of the riverbank and secure his or her place in the universe. Its eye was open and watchful, but the alligator remained absolutely motionless like they often do. We sat watching each other for a while, neither of us disturbing the balance. Man has been fascinated with alligators for eons. They patrol the shorelines that separate land and water, life and death, one phase of life from the next. They are associated with the feminine principle of creation and destruction and more creation and are associated with rebirth. In Ancient Greece, initiates were thrown into pits with alligators. I did not necessarily want to take my chances with that, but I was very content to sit there and intuit whether this being had any answers for me regarding my path. I also remembered what Betty Osceola and I discussed in the Everglades. She said alligators and humans can communicate. They can sense your purpose with them and life. I told this creature how much I appreciated its existence. I would have stayed for hours, but it was getting later in the day and I wanted to explore a bit more before the sun went down.
On the way back to the landing, I came upon this small creek and was able to stop and get out of my kayak. The water was crystal clear though tinted with tannin and reflecting the colors of he trees. The riverbed was filled with tiny pebbles that glistened like jewels. Off the main river, the water was still and serene and otherworldly. I put a variable ND filter on to slow time down eve more and really take me to that place of oneness with the environment. I would have sat here and mediated, but I knew kayaking in these waters in the dark would not be safe.
I have never seen such richness of colors in the water. There were enough trees to block out the harshness of the sun but the right amount of gaps to let enough light in to illuminate everything and the end result was a natural impressionist painting, especially with the ripples from the moving water. I found another branch to hang on to here and watched this one patch as it continually shifted and transformed, a single perpetually metamorphosing location. Though the minutia of daily life are not always so enticing or evident to the naked eye or our consciousness, existence is continually pulsating and we are never truly stuck. Each moment offers the opportunity to shift our patterns. To wake up to this thought each morning is something I am striving towards.
Though I felt immense gratitude for all the lessons I'd learned, it was not without a touch of sadness that I bid adieu to the vines and landscape that invited me in to share the mysteries of being. These moments are why I kayak rivers and am not afraid to kayak them alone. I meet myself here, the self that wants to expand and live without fear. Yet, I also know when it is time to leave, and with each return I hope to come back a slightly more aware who. William Least Heat-Moon, in his wonderful book Blue Highways, was once told by a person he met on the road that he couldn't escape coming home and he replied maybe not, but he was working on Who. This concept has stuck with me ever since. This is all I can really ask of myself, to work on being aware of who I am becoming.
This kayaking journey was definitely a peak experience. Nature did not disappoint me all the way home. When I passed under a bridge and rounded the last bend to the ramp, I came upon these glorious turtles. Their colors were so rich and they formed a great composition with the logs and their reflections. The way the lower turtle made a heart shape in the water, the two turtles created three forms. This I recalled is the Incan idea of union between a man and a woman. Not two people coming together to complete some lack in the other, but two coming together in a union so special that it creates a third entity through love. Everywhere I looked, there was magic around me. I felt like I was seeing things with totally fresh eyes and was truly in awe.
These spider lilies touched me profoundly. It is rare I see fully opened blossoms next to plump buds ready to burst. I felt like this was where I am in my life too, finally genuinely sharing my heart and connecting with life but also perpetually ready to open to something new and continue this great journey of exploration.
Perhaps the universe was aware how deeply I had listened with all my senses and decided I should be rewarded. As I pulled my kayak up on the beach, the sun was setting across the riverbank. It was so glorious it truly took my breath away. In this day and age, with so many imbalances and egregious transgressions against this beautiful planet that graciously hosts us, beauty is often derided and believed to be a romantic dream. When I witnessed this sunset, I knew my celebration of beauty in nature is not escapism but something that still exists. Such awe inspiring moments in nature also have the potential to heal so many illness, both physical and mental, that arise from a disconnection from hope. Standing within a riparian landscape and knowing the you are part of this, cannot help but make you want to keep growing and connecting and finding ways to celebrate life. And then I yelled Thank You, as Dewitt Jones taught me to do in Hawaii.