Another beautiful summer day. I’m in the lead canoe headed across a big lake with distant mountains surrounding us around the horizon, several canoes trail in a spread out line behind me. The air is tranquil and cool, the perpetual afternoon wind I know will whip the lake into white caps later is only just starting to stir this early in the morning. The sun is high, sky is clear, and there are very few motor boats on the lake, perfect for a paddle across, and we are making good time. I glance behind me and realize I have pulled far ahead of the last canoe so I quit paddling and drift. Gentle waves rock the canoe, I am relaxed and warm, so lay back onto the stern with my legs propped up over the gunwales. As the boat rocks and lazily turns with the breeze, I close my eyes and concentrate on my senses: feeling the warm sunshine on my skin, smell the faint damp earth smell of lake water and far off camp smoke drifting in the breeze, hear water lapping at the sides of the canoe, the distant whining thrum of an outboard motor, gulls calling, and happy laughter from other canoes. I breath deeply inhaling the pure Adirondack mountain air and open my eyes. On the horizon in the distance, directly in my line of vision, is Blue Mountain in all her majestic glory. She is tall and green, cone shaped like a child’s drawing of a distant rolling mountain, with a prominent rock face near top on one side. This canoe trip started at Blue Mountain in the crystal clear waters of the lake of the same name at her base. We have paddled about 15 miles and now can see that distance as a physical manifestation of time and place. We are but small creatures on this vast planet, yet viscerally connected to all its living wonder
Early morning sunlight creeps slowly across the lake and into the forest. I am cozy and warm in my hammock and do not want to actually get up. The birds are all awake and serenading a new day. The air is chilly against my face and thin tendrils of mist slink over the lake. The sky is pale pastels in the east that deepen toward the west. Eventually I climb out of the hammock into the cold morning air, pad over to the kitchen area and start water boiling for coffee and tea. All is quiet. I am the first human awake in the campground and it is perfectly peaceful. My kitchen tinkering and hot tea making has awaken my coworker. She is as reluctant to get up as I was. We sit in the lean-to gazing out across the lake, watching the rising mist and the sky get brighter. I suggest that the water is warmer than the air and we should go for a swim before everybody gets up. In moments we are in our bathing suits and running down the short dock launching ourselves through the air into the water. We both stifle shrieks of cold shock when we surface not wanting to wake the whole campground. After a few minutes, our bodies acclimate and the water is warmer than the air. We swim out away from shore making small ripples in the water. We swim out of the small lagoon where we can see the eastern horizon, with the first edge of the blinding silver sun just becoming visible above the distant mountain. I look out across the ripples as we tread water and notice every miniature wave mirrors the sky with all it layers of pastel colors. Every ripple is a mirror reflecting the infinite possibilities of the universe directly into my psyche. We watch the sun rise over the mountain and claiming the sky, promising another glorious summer day. Swimming into the sunrise is an amazing beginning!
Laying in my hammock, any movement sets it gently rocking. There is a glowing pale light illuminating the forest that has grown brighter as the full moon has risen above the treetops. There is enough light to cast silver edged shadows among the trees. The camp fire has burned down to coals and the campers have quieted down into sleep, but I am awake watching the moon slowly arch across the sky visible between dark branches. I drift in and out of sleep, hearing soft scurrings of tiny creatures on the ground below. Off in the distance a single loon calls, mournful longing. An eternity or maybe a moment later another calls back echoing across the lake. Then the air is filled with loud trills, warbles, and soul searching calls all around the peninsula we are camped on. They sing long into the night as I drift in and out of sleep, tracking the moons progress, and listening to the loons call.
Camping with a group of teenagers, we managed to get the tents set up before the rain started last night and it poured heavily all evening chasing everybody to their tents right after dinner. It was late by the time the droning of the rain on the tarp above my hammock quieted enough for me to drift off sleep. Then wake up wicked early to start packing wet tents and gear before making breakfast. At least the rain has stopped so I am on hyper-drive trying to happily motivate sleepy teenagers into early morning action. As we pull the rain fly off on one the tents, I notice a dragonfly perched on the tent pole. It had been hiding in the dry space between the fly and tent. It had crawled up the pole as a nymph sometime in the night and had broken out of the shell of its last metamorphosis changing into the magnificent dragonfly in front of us. It is waiting for its wings to dry before it can fly away. We all stand around the tent watching this tiny miracle take place. After a few minutes of wing fluttering it takes flight, zooms around us, and disappears into the new day.
Summer rain, warm air, shuttling large storm clouds across the sky, bright yellow slanted afternoon sunlight peeking around the grey clouds in strong sunbeams. Light catches the rain drops suspended in the air above the deep summer green valley. The sunlight dazzles the drops into a brilliant rainbow that arches across in a perfect complete half circle. I can see where the ground is kissed by the colors on either end. I pull over to the side of the road and watch as the colors grow brighter and the rainbow doubles then triples. It almost looks solid enough to touch, yet translucent and ethereal. If I had wings, I would fly up and bathe in all those colors, raindrop gem stones filling me with pure light energy. How many times has my raft chased a rainbow down the river or my car chased one down the road? It isn’t gold one finds at the end of a rainbow, but dazzling brilliant engulfing light, where dreams, happiness, peacefulness, and gratitude coalesce into the point where your soul spark meets the oneness of all creation.
Thunder on the River is always scary and exciting. Lightening is nothing to mess around with. I have been hit once (indirectly of course, very few people survive direct hits) and have been close enough to four other strikes that I could hear, feel, and smell the electricity in the air a split second before the strike happened. This may sound like too much lightening for one life time, but for the amount of time that I spend outside during thunderstorm season, five close calls in thirty years isn’t really that crazy. So there we were rafting down through the Hudson River Gorge, when a thunderstorm blew through. This happens several times every summer. Most of the time all that happens is we hear the thunder rumble through the mountains but never actually see the lightening because the storm cloud is behind a ridge. This storm started just like that. Distant grumbling from hidden clouds, with stray rain drops in the breeze. This storm grumbled out of sight all the way through the gorge, then seemed to move on as we paddled out of the steep part and into the three mile float out section. It was overcast and cool so we kept paddling to stay warm. We were about a mile from the take out when the grumbling started again, louder and more persistent. Our paddling efforts doubled in a race for the take out. Then the lightening became visible, general flashing lights high up in the dark clouds with responding loud thunder . We all just wanted to get off the river quickly. All the rafts from all the companies were bunched up along the river bank together fiercely trying to get to the take out. Nothing like a little adrenaline to motivate strong paddling. No one wanted to pull over to wait it out for concern of losing the dam release water and for hypothermia setting in among chilled wet guests who are already cold. So as pink lightening forked across the dark brooding cloudy sky behind us and angry thunder chased us downstream, we paddled for all we had! I kept my guests attention focused forward toward our destination so they never saw the scary lightening dance performance behind us, but I saw every streaking bolt, felt the energizing rush of adrenaline, and shouted encouragement over every cracking peal of thunder. My internal consolation (however untrue it may be) is that when you are at the bottom of a gorge, you are Not the highest object around. The lightening tends to hit the ridges and the tallest trees. As we all pulled into the take out at mostly the same time the sky opened up and dumped all its rain out in a blinding torrent completely soaking everybody in a matter of seconds and turning the path to the river into a rushing muddy creek. Streaking lightening and deafening thunder were happening simultaneously as all the guests ran en mass through the trees for the shelter of the waiting buses, and dripping guides started carrying and loading rafts onto flatbed trailers. Fifteen minutes later as the steamy buses pulled out onto the road to carry everybody back to their raft bases, the rain stopped as abruptly as it started, the sun shone brightly like a clear summer day, and the thunder and lightening were nothing but a memory. Five miles down the road at our raft base, the sun was shining merrily, nothing was wet, and they hadn’t even heard the thunder! The energy from the storm has ebbed, but I am still humming inside.
I have hiked up Chimney Mountain with a group of campers who are exploring Eagle Cave. A counselor and I stayed out of the cave and are siting on the ledge above it watching the storm clouds scuttle around the horizon. We are in sunshine for now, but thunder rumbles in the distance. Clouds come and go casting shadows over the mountaintop where we sit. The cloud shadows move fast across the view shed, in an ethereal game of chase. Thunder growls louder, we can see some other storms making rain on distant peaks. Thunder mumbles farther away. We listen and watch as the storms get closer and then pass us without our perch getting hit. The thunder seems to circle us but never attains our position. Sun and shadow play across our rock ledge as thunder grumbles nearby closer then further away. It is fascinating to watch this interplay of earth and sky, to feel the energy ebb and flow in the air, to be so close and yet so far away from the scattered thunderstorms.