John Prine’s ballad Lake Marie came to mind as I was considering where to kayak on Sunday. Although John sings about Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, you don’t need to travel that far for good paddling. There is plenty of open water nearby. In fact Clinton, my home for the past 20 years, is nestled between two of New Jersey’s largest lakes – Round Valley and Spruce Run. Proximity to these and other parks is one of the reasons we chose to raise our family here.
I opted for Spruce Run , and it was a good choice. There’s something magical about spending the day on the water. The minute you push away from shore the concerns of ordinary life fade away as other senses spring to life. Suddenly, you’re out of your head and into your body, aware of the breeze on your arms as you track it’s movement across the water, captivated by the enormity of the sky and the hypnotic sound of water hitting the sides of your boat.
There is such dynamism here in the interplay of light, water, wind, sound and shadow – a continual invitation to embrace the living world. This practice of greeting experience with our full attention is as sacred and redemptive as any holy book or cathedral and I much prefer a few hours in a kayak to time spend indoors.
Marcel Proust got it right when he said “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Unfortunately, finding new eyes is challenging. One person who points a way forward is David Abram’s, and I recommend his provocative book Becoming Animal: An Earthy Cosmology.
Thankfully, a reviewer for Orin Magazine summarized Abram’s premise better than I ever could when she said the book is “deeply resonant with indigenous ways of knowing…. reminding us of the porosity of the boundary between ourselves and the more than human world.” She also calls us to task in her review when she says the book’s primary accomplishment is to remind us of things we have forgotten, of how we have “allowed the artifices of technology and over-reliance on abstract intelligence to dull….” but we can reclaim our birthright because “we are each of us gifted with animal senses that languish without exercise, and that can excite and nourish our spiritual and sensual engagement with the world. ” All we need to do is try.
So, if your interested in taking a voyage of discovery while so much of the world is still in some form of lock down due to COVID 19, find a nearby lake or a nearby river. Spend a lazy afternoon along the shore on in a boat. Peer into the bulrushes and see what peers back.