September 12, 2011

Return to Goose Poop Island

    "Staycation's all I ever wanted..." - bastardized GoGos tune

Saturday's expanse lay before me like a warm embrace. I listened to Fr. Larry on the radio speak about the theological virtues while engaging in McDonald's breakfast gluttony. Feeling uncomfortably full afterward, I headed out with Buddy for a hike at the local park. There the trees opened up to me and I walked the corridor of the forest's edge, taking in every sampling of tree and bush leaf. How gladdened I was by the dark green of the oak, the "king of trees", but seemingly fragile in its early stages when competing with the onslaught of fast-growing bushes and maples. I saw too the extravagant leaves of the beech, looking almost tropical in her curvaceous large lobes. I walked for almost an hour, not wanting to leave this paradise and planning a return trip later in the week to sit by the cattails and read, sans dog, just doing my own kind of fishing on the pond bank.

Back home Steph got back from aerobics and we headed out on a short bike trip to the local 9/11 memorial, where I snapped pictures alongside a professional from the Dispatch; I eagerly checked the paper the next morning to see which picture he chose and how it was composed. From the angle it appeared he'd simply squatted low to the ground (a favorite photographer's trick since the amateur always seems too lazy to squat for a picture) and to slightly tilt his camera for a 45-degree effect. It seemed gimmicky yet it worked; I liked his picture better than mine. Oh and another tip a different professional told me: always have a human in a picture. People add interest.

It happened that the annual street festival was happening so we walked down a crowded Main street, encountering first a Chinese lady trying to get us to go to a Chinese dance production downtown next month. We had trouble understanding her but that lent authenticity to the whole deal. She wouldn't let us go, and showed us pictures of celebrities who'd gone, appealing to the American need for the imprimatur of the famous. "Do you want to go?" asked Steph and I said, "Yes, we should study our new masters."

One children's violin choir later, we sat and listened to a blue-grass ensemble as the sun fell pleasantly upon our arms.

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Fast forward to today. Waking up when it's still dark and expecting a great, sunny day feels like an act of faith, like planting a tiny seed and expecting to gather fruits. Fine sunny days occur most often when the light is strong at 7am, not when it's nearly pitch-black. But I have it on the weather authority that today will be bright and sunny and without rain which is ideal timing for the beginning of my week off.

After a dutiful two-mile slog through the streets of suburbia, I threw the kayak in the trunk and headed off to the nearest lake system. I was bent on scratching my itch for the natural, to float by the cattails and katydids, to look at water for awhile like the fisherman do. A quick check of the weather revealed only Monday and Tuesday of this week as extant, alluvial veins of undiluted summer while the rest of the week temperatures are purportedly to be ten degrees cooler. So I let no moss grow under my feet.

I put the boat in the water and provided the motor and soon I was transfixed by a rare bird of unknown heritage, with bright yellow legs and feet and looking like a small heron of some sort. I let the kayak drift towards him and noiselessly approached before he flew away. Then I headed out on the open lake, gazing at that distant shore horizon, pretending I was William F. Buckley sailing his craft towards Tonga. A large flock of birds were sighted flying way overhead in a southwesterly direction and I envied them their mobility and weather smarts.

Over the lake and under a bridge I went, finding a "dog beach" dead ahead, a place where canine owners throw balls into the water with the hope of them being retrieved. On this golden day there was a golden retriever and a black lab and three of the two-legged sort.

I headed out to unpopulated climes, towards the elusive island in the middle of the lake. With a minute of rowing I arrived at that marvelous solitude, all rocky and sandy on the western side but on top dressed with all manner of ingeniously hardy small trees and weeds and bush-like plants. At one time it was all sand and rocks but nature in her effort to leave nothing wasted, somehow managed a toehold on this unpromising real estate. The whole island is the size of a regular-sized room raised on a platform some fifteen feet high. And all that sand and rock was turned into arable soil over time, from the decay of the weeds that could live in sand, through, perhaps manure of birds, through I don't know what. All I know is once there was sand and rocks and now there is a foot or so of soil, a soil good enough to support a small ecosystem.

I'd remembered this uncharted island before in my travels but I didn't remember the black poop all along the shore-line, the familiar refuse of Canadian geese. It lent an unpleasant smell to the festivities and made climbing to the top of the island unpalatable, so I docked my ship and watched the water for awhile.

Then, renewed in energy, I rowed back towards Dog Beach, the prow of the kayak gathering in the glinting sun-diamonds along the water's surface. I rowed with rhythm and with a gentle rocking east and west that lent the effort not the least bit disagreeable. I trolled momentarily along the banks and took in the yellow wildflowers before heaving-ho back to the car and civilization.

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