I had an intense and awe filled experience kayaking on windy Georgian Bay this past summer with a dear heart friend. The round rocks, the bent pines and the open water called for increased mindfulness of the mystery of life.
I adored our light filled sunrise mornings as we focused to get on the water as early as possible to avoid the afternoon winds: take down tents, eat, stuff our kayak holds and pull on our skirts and life jackets. Then that first sweet moment of sliding in to the sun drenched water.
We always intended to be off the water by early afternoon so naps, yoga, swimming and reading could unfold but sometimes the mighty and constant Wind would laugh at us, demanding surrender.
I had yearned to paddle to the Bustard Islands, gorgeous pink windswept rocks that are like a Tom Thomson painting.
As we crossed the large open water toward the islands on the third day, Wind rose and the waves began to build, flooding my boat and soaking me to the bone. At first, fear grabbed my throat as I used my full capacity to move the kayak forward and stay stable. But suddenly, I felt so alive and connected that the moment struck me with full force and fear dissolved: Be Here Now. Surrender to what is. Now, the Wind seemed playful, the sun sparkled and the kayak moved with grace.
As we rounded the edges of the islands into more protected waters, gratitude washed over me. To be alive. Here and now. With this body, mind and spirit alive.
The next night, after another challenging crossing, we camped on a wilder rock before we were heading back in to more protected waters. That night, we used mammoth rocks to tie down our tents as Wind was rising, again.
Just before midnight, thunder woke me with a startled clap right above my head, lightning lit up the tent and torrential rain began. Then, the fierce howling gale started. My tent began rocking and billowing. I held the fly and tent down tightly with my feet and body. Fear gripped me again as the tent threatened to lift off. After some time of tension, I remembered: Be Here Now. Right. Relax the body and breathe deeply. The storm raged around me for two hours….but I was calm and alive in my nylon illusion of safety.
Nature taught us surrender in many ways. One evening after dinner we were sitting on the rocks, tired to the core, almost ready for bed, when a rattlesnake slid out of the deep water with a fiercely writhing 8 inch black cat fish in its mouth. We watched, fascinated, dosed the still flopping fish with its venom, then swallowed a bit more of it. The snake’s jaws opened wider and wider until the whole fish was inside it. You could see the fish still moving as the snake slid away. We were both rapt with awe.
I felt saturated by the sky and clouds being outside so much. Each evening, the stunning wide sky would light up with colour as the sun set, and then the full round orange moon would rise in the east.
Since the moon would rise later each night, on our last night we stayed awake late to star gaze.
As we lay on the still warm rocks in our sleeping bags, the stars began to blink into sharp light. They slowly lit up the sky, along with the gentle light of the Milky Way Galaxy. [Scientists estimate 100 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, and 10 trillion galaxies….holy, that’s a lot of stars!!]
As we lay there that night, absorbing the massive distances of the galaxies and stars, we both became intensely aware of being alive and conscious in this moment. Perhaps there were other sentient beings on other planets among the vastness of the universe looking at our galaxy?
Now, as I write this to you across time and space, I am acutely aware of the 7 billion of us living on this tiny, spinning planet in the our spiral galaxy, surrounded by so many other galaxies. Our lives are awesome and weird and glorious….let’s remember that each moment is precious and stay filled with the mystery of wind and waves, and the imminence of death….and life. We are alive, right here, right now, in this immense mystery of life.
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.