Sunday, September 1, 2013

Pretending to be a seal in the river

I guess that 30% chance of thunderstorms means that there's 70% chance of no thunderstorms. I don't actually know if that's true, even though it sounds true. But is there some way that the weather robots predict the weather that is less obvious than it seems? In any case, there was a 30% chance of thunderstorms starting at 2 PM, so Josh and I got a move on early in the day and drove to Damariscotta to get in kayaks and get out on the river, which has been Josh's #1 vacation goal.

By the time we hit the river, it was almost high noon, with nary a cloud in the sky and a summer sun beating down. The light breeze on the river helped cool us down a bit, but wasn't strong enough to slow us down, as we set out down river to explore. As we approached Hog Island, me in front of Josh, I turned around to see where he was, and I saw, above him, an osprey fishing. Have you seen an osprey fish? They soar and swoop and swoop and soar, and then they push themselves upright with their wings and beat them so that they stand still in the air, head up, feet down. If there's a fish down there they want, they will descend quickly, and grab it feet first, their talons locking on the fish. (Their talons don't unlock until they land on something, so if an osprey catches too big a fish, it can actually pull the bird down and drown it.) We didn't see the osprey go in for a catch, but we watched it soar and swoop and stall, and soar and swoop and stall, until it flew off over the nearest bank of trees and disappeared from sight.

We paddled around the island, and saw a long bank of rocks in the middle of the river. I told Josh that it seemed like a perfect place to see a seal baking in the sun, so we went over to explore. At first I thought there was nothing, and I was about to head the rest of the way across the river to check out the oyster farms, but then I noticed a little movement, and lo and behold, there was a fat seal basking on the rock, with its head cocked towards us, keeping a steady eye. We approached very very slowly, playing a game of red light/green light. Whenever it looked away, we would sneak a paddle toward it, and when it looked back, we would float. After about ten minutes, we were within about 50 feet, and that was close enough for the seal, who slid into the water and swam past us, only to flop back up on the rocky island about 100 feet behind us. We decided to leave it be, and went off to explore the oysters, who we figured wouldn't mind as much.

After a couple hours, we came in off the river, ate our leftover haddock/rice/grilled vegetable salad and then headed down to Dodge Point, where I knew a good place to get in the river myself. The sky was starting to fill with clouds, and I wasn't as sweaty as I'd been on the river, but I was still determined to get in. And even though there were no seals coming over to commune with me, I was communing with the seals (in my mind) as I flipped and flopped and swam and floated in the salty river.

So people, it's coming up on a year of doing something daily for my own selfish joy, and writing this blog, and I am starting to give serious consideration to what I need next in my life. 3 years ago, when I started this blog, I needed to feel that my life was expansive, as I approached 50, and so I started doing something every day I had never done before. That year, my writing was very specifically tied to my mussar (Jewish ethics) practice. The year was extraordinary for me, as was the blog writing, but it was also draining to write so much every day. I took the next year off, and was noticeably less happy. This past year I have done something every day for my own selfish joy, and written much less about it—often just using this space as a documentation, and not so much a space for literary, ethical, or even much of a personal exploration. The daily joy was perfect for me—and I think I will likely continue the practice. But I'm also sifting through my mind for this year's practice, and I would like to ask you—especially those of you who know me well, or have known me for a long time, or who think you have a good sense of me—what do you think might be good for me in this coming year? I have a few ideas, of course, but I would also love to hear what others think. Please feel free to leave your ideas in the comments of this blog (which I would prefer to your leaving them on Facebook) or send me personal emails. Thank you!

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