Save the Bay

This morning we got up at 6 a.m. to go kayaking. If you know me well, you know I hate this sort of thing generally. I hate being forced to get up early to go on some sort of trip or adventure. The worst is getting up for an early flight, or road trip – although driving isn’t so bad once you’ve got some caffeine in your system and the morning news on the radio. But similarly, I don’t like getting up early for, you know, any activity really. The crazy thing is, it’s not the getting up early part. No, really. I like getting up early. I like getting ready for the day slowly. I like reading the paper, maybe, and having a good breakfast. I even like going for early morning runs or trips to the gym, where I’m in charge and can take my time. I like the sense of accomplishment, and on the flipside, I don’t like waking up too late and feeling I’ve wasted my day.

So – getting up early – that’s not the problem. It’s getting up early and having something to do immediately, something that someone else is generally dictating. Something that requires you WAKE UP big time and participate before the sun has risen. Like, oh, I don’t know, going to look for eagles.

So when J suggested this kayaking trip last night – a sunrise kayaking trip – my first response, naturally, was not unbridled enthusiasm. But he was really excited about it, I hadn’t had a chance to go out for a real kayaking trip yet, and I figured I could handle it. I mean, we’re living here in this beautiful place for free, - working, but not on anybody’s schedule, really. I mean, I can’t complain about anything so I decided I might as well do something I normally would say no to. It would be good for me, and also, we would be coming right back home where if I wanted to, I could get right back into bed. Not that I would, but it was a comforting thought.

When J gently woke me up this morning, out of a very, very deep sleep, I thought only briefly about going back on my promise. It was completely dark outside although he swore the sun was about to come up. He was also making coffee and told me you could see Jupiter shining brightly in the sky only at this time of day, right before sunrise. The combination of these things forced me out of bed and into some comfortable clothes that I deemed fit for kayaking.

As we waited for the sun to fully light up the sky, thus prompting the beginning of our adventure, the dogs ran around outside nearly breaking my heart as they had these ridiculously exuberant looks on their faces, tails wagging, positive we were all going to do something fun together. I explained to them that we’d go swimming when we returned (we didn’t), put them inside, shut the door and watched the disbelief register on their faces as J and I headed down to the beach.

I’ve kayaked before plenty of times. I’ve kayaked in the ocean with my brother in Maine. I’ve kayaked on rivers on various outdoors trips and I’ve kayaked in the Chesapeake with J before, too, during a family day my mom hosted at the house for her coworkers, so I knew what I was doing. It’s not hard, especially in the early morning calm Bay waters. But because I can’t help myself, I got spooked a few times. It’s the early morning thing again. No one’s out. No one’s there to help you when you fall. Or die, or whatever.

Because I’ve read almost nothing but mystery novels for the past two years, I cleaned up a few things in the house before we left. I’d taken off my bra the night before while snuggled in a blanket watching TV because I figured, hey, I’d be way more comfortable with my bra off! And I’d left it casually sitting on a chair in the living room. That wouldn’t do, I knew, because if I was found dead in some “boating accident” and a particularly resourceful inspector thought there was something funny about my case and proceeded to prove there’d been foul play, he or she would naturally search the house, find my bra and assume sexual intrigue where there wasn’t any. That sort of thing.

I frowned at the fairly terrifying mist rising off the water. I thought J had exclaimed “there’s a bear!” when he pointed out a beer can sitting on the pier. I asked what I should do if I saw a shark.

But after we’d paddled out a ways, headed north and staying close to shore, I started to relax. Great Blue Herons – by far my favorite creature to behold out in these parts – flew from tree to tree as the sun crept higher and higher over the horizon.

We turned in at Jack’s Creek, a small inlet surrounded by reeds, trees and just a few houses that J and Max had discovered on an earlier trip. He set to work scanning the trees with his binoculars, spending a great deal of time watching a sandpiper or something like that and I took off my shoes, let my feet drift in the water and laid back in my kayak for a while. The water was so calm I was barely moving. I watched the birds overheard, squinted and looked at the sun, brightly poking through tree limbs and then turned my head to the side and looked out at the vast expanse of water…the slight ripples my paddle made when it brushed against the water. The reflection of the pink and blue sky.

I know this is going to sound totally insane, but it made me feel a little sad. This amazingly peaceful moment was the first time I’d felt – maybe ever – really close to this body of water, the land around it and the animals and plants that make their home here.

I only started spending time at the Bay a few years ago and by no means has my family ever been really into living on, and learning about, the water. I mean, we all love it – who doesn’t love looking out on the water? – but our presence here is recent. With J’s help we’re just getting into the kayaking thing and hopefully we’ll do even more in the future. More boating. More exploring.

I wasn’t sad about any of that though. I was sad because…and honestly, I can’t even believe how immature and simplistic this is going to sound…but I was sad because of pollution. I’m going to look even worse now, but the Bay…the Bay is polluted right? I mean, I know it was growing up and I think that things have gotten better over the years, but I know perfectly well there are problems. And maybe for the first time ever I saw how beautiful the Bay is, I mean, it was so remarkably beautiful out there this morning, and all of a sudden I felt depressed about it, and then I started thinking about other environmental concerns, and once that starts, well, there’s no stopping.

I did, though, I did stop. I knew there was no use being on a sunrise kayak ride with my husband and getting upset about humanity’s wrongdoings against Mother Earth. I decided, instead, to enjoy it the Bay as it is, because it’s still great, and even more importantly to find some worthwhile groups that are making a change for the better and maybe donate my money or time to their cause.

The thing about kayaks is that you’re really close to everything. You’re close to the water below you which is, in fact, in the boat with you and seeping into your socks and your underwear, and if you paddle into shore you’re close to the reeds and bushes and trees and everything that lives in this habitat, and you’re just there really a part of it all, gliding soundlessly around taking note. Maybe that’s what made me feel so suddenly attached to this place, and I’m looking forward to more of that, yes, even very very early in the morning.