Yesterday evening it was my spouse’s turn to put our child to bed, so I snuck down to the lake and hauled our huge, green Old Town canoe over to the dock, determined to get a little time on the water after a long day of computer-based activities and schlepping around town. It’s not an easy object to lug around by yourself, but somehow I managed to flip it over and drag it across the grass, over the pavers-turned-dock ramp, and then shoved it off the dock into the reeds that line the shore. By the time I was situated with paddle in hand, fending off the spiders that usually take up residence when the boat’s not in use, I was covered in dirt and more than a little annoyed at the heft of my chosen seaworthy vessel. But off I went, paddling through the young lily pads close to the edge first, and then out into more open water.
I’m fortunate to live next to this little body of water, but so often I find myself feeling too busy with other things – work, writing, family obligations, dishes, keeping the garden alive, checking social media [wait, that shouldn’t be on the list, should it…?], and myriad other little details that make up a modern human life – that I don’t get down to its shores as often as I imagined I would when we moved in. But I’m always so glad when I do.
After I’d made it to the middle of the lake and beyond, I poked around near the opposite shore for awhile as the powerful June sun invited the green of the trees to come alive with astonishing vibrancy even while the sun sunk lower in the horizon. A great blue heron shared his space with me for awhile, and we stared at each other until he decided to move his sentinel station elsewhere. Three deer silently watched me glide alongside the stately beaver lodge that sees new construction each year, seemingly unconcerned with my presence. Then one of the beavers slipped out, his coat silky with lake water as he swam around the tiny island near the northern-most shore, content to let me paddle along through the duckweed in his wake.
Anna Quindlen wrote, in a tiny book titled A Short Guide to a Happy Life, “Life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement. It would be wonderful if they came to us unsummoned, but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead now, that won’t happen. We have to teach ourselves how to live, really live…to love the journey, not the destination.”
That evening time on the lake, short as it was, allowed me to focus on some of the small pieces of glittering mica. Even though the day seemed, at a glance, to be more cement heavy that would be ideal, the mica was there. All I had to do was walk down to the dock and put a little effort into ensuring it remains part of the journey. After all, there is no arriving at a destination when it comes to life. There is only the journey and being present for it. Finding [and paying attention to] the small pieces of mica — from a canoe or from a city bus or from the bedside of a loved one — matters.
When I stopped following the beaver and turned the canoe toward home, I was greeted by a view of the sun continuing to sink lower in the sky, clouds outlined by bright light, and a reflection of the sky on the still water that can only be described as otherworldly. But then again, there are other worlds all around us, right? We just have to pay attention and notice them. We just have to find the glittering mica in the gray cement.