Of Paddles and Moonlight
By Elizabeth Reeke
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
Our tents almost hidden in the pines,
We’re up and back from the lakeside,
No one stirring that first night
when I slipped away,
A huge sky filled with bright sparkling stars
reflected in the lake,
shimmering there in the moonlight;
And somewhere, gazing at that vast expanse,
I lost all my thoughts; the last words vanished,
all my sense of separation,
One with an ageless, boundless stillness.
Morning at the campsite found tents bundled,
Tarps stowed, a simple meal and hot tea,
Soon our canoes slipping into the water again.
How I loved the rhythm of the paddling!
Water bubbling and gurgling as the bow sliced the surface,
Ruddering aft, sliding swiftly forward,
Two of us in perfect harmony.
I haven’t known such joy!
Ever-changing skies, winding channels
through dense marshgrass,
Swifter streams leading to pine woods,
Portages that tried all our strength and skills
rewarded by a series of small crispy-clear lakes,
Finding the special warmth and caring of our close-knit group
on this adventure of a lifetime.
Soon it was my habit as days passed,
Quietly making my way from our campsite to the water,
Just the tiniest hint of the new day coming,
Treasuring the simple sounds of wind and water,
At peace with all the life around me.
No cell phones back then,
Just five young teenage girls,
An amazing leader we were all mad about,
Following our trail with map and compass;
The excitement of finding our day’s campsite,
Setting up tents, gathering wood, building fires,
All our well-honed skills on display.
Twilight most nights found us by the fire,
Trading stories, adventures, just goofy,
Just happy with one another, with the nighttime,
With the day well done.
Rainy nights we bundled together, tents set on tarps,
Ponchos at the ready, hoping for morning sun.
Often I think back to those days of paddling,
exploring, friendship, bonding;
Even now still rising before the nighttime has faded,
That time of starlight and stillness,
Not expecting any great revelation,
No glimpse of eternity,
Just resting in that silent expanse
that reaches beyond the self.
In September 2019 our Administration announced the beginning of efforts to significantly roll back current wetlands protections.
Copyright © 2020 by Elizabeth Reeke.