Friday, April 5, 2013

October 7, 2008: Not at night

Oh, to paddle south by the half-full moon as a front chases the sun down over the horizon.

It was an experiment I had kept in mind for several days.  In the time I spent in Winnipeg the days had already grown quite short, and by the time I started I usually only had six or seven hours before the sun fell in the southwest -- resting until late in the morning had become for me an adaptation to the cold weather.  But, the moon had been a waxing sliver when I first saw it a couple days before, and so I watched day by day as it grew to something perhaps bright enough to paddle by.

This concept had been thwarted by overcast skies and aching muscles, but as I turned around one of the last bends towards the town of Morris it was as though the sky turned clear all at once.  A man in rubber boots cast his line into the glass-like river; meanwhile I sat in my boat consulting my GPS, which knows such things, to locate the moon as it walked out from behind the wood.  Everything had fallen into place: the sky, the moon, the air, the water; all laid bright and still for the night of my paddling experiment.

It is amusing how people have grand over-arching principles that can be applied to every situation, yet contradict each other.  Famously, the cliches "the pen is mightier than the sword" and "actions speak louder than words"; "take risks" but "better safe than sorry."

Once again I had determined to make south as quickly as possible; the further south I could get, the more hours of light and heat in a day, and the closer to St Louis I thought I could be by Thanksgiving.

And, as usual, just as I had determined to paddle through the night, temptation came into sight.  It was a rocky bar, a thin layer of mud seeping through the stones, but only enough to dirty my toes.  There were boulders too, the size of fishermen or canoeists wrapped up tightly, arms around legs.  The usual layer of clam shells and broken glass decorated the place, litter from feathered and flanneled guests gone by.

A planet appeared by the moon, and the only waves on the river were the ridges of the rock-bar.  I remembered an old conclusion of mine that it didn't matter how far I got as long as I had a good time, and this permitted me to indulge my instinct to stay.

That didn't mean time wasn't running out.

I wouldn't paddle at night for weeks later, under far worse circumstances.

Day 108 ended: 49*22.102N, 097*19.987W

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