On the lake

I greeted the sunrise from the surface of Clear Lake yesterday. I went rowing shortly after I got up. I had my camera and a cup of hot tea and I rowed without pushing it. The yawl I was rowing is a boat that I made and launched about eight years ago, with the intention of having a simple row boat to give rides and introduce our grandson to human-powered boating. Now we have four grandchildren and our grandson can paddle a kayak all by himself. Our eldest granddaughter also is developing her solo paddling skills. What I did not anticipate when I built the boat is how much I would enjoy rowing. It is, for me, a very relaxing way to explore the world.

The pace of my life in the last couple of years, however, hasn’t supported much time for rowing. I would dash to the lake with a canoe or kayak simply because the row boat is heavier and a bit more of a challenge to launch and retrieve from the water. With a canoe, I wouldn’t be taking a cup of tea and I might not take my best camera. The row boat is stable and on calm water, I can carry much more with me.

Yesterday was a great day for rowing. I had the lake to myself when I launched and an hour later there were just two kayaks and another small boat on the lake. The other three were fishing. I was taking pictures.

I accompanied our son and daughter-in-law when they moved to this area, helping with the move. They moved into a rental home, however, and I did not discover the lake on that trip. After they had lived in Mount Vernon for about a year, they moved to the house they are buying next to Clear Lake. It is a beautiful location. They bought an older house and have worked steadily to make improvements to the house in the short time they have lived here. They have a large yard, with plenty of room for the camper and an extensive garden. Their back yard is a great place to observe the birds.

We’ve enjoyed sitting out in the evening watching the swallows capture insects as they fly. They dart and spin and perform arial acrobatics which provides us with quite a bit of entertainment. There is a pair of bald eagles who fish the lake and we’ve had several opportunities to observe them as they go about their work. We bought a pair of field glasses for our son shortly after they made the move and they have gotten a work out watching the birds.

I was looking for the eagles as I rowed, knowing that I might get an opportunity for some pictures. The row boat is quiet in the water. I use wooden oars and the boat itself is wooden. It is very quiet in the water with just the gentle splash of the paddles dipping. I can stow the oars and sit quietly in the boat with out disrupting the activities of the birds. I was rewarded with several good pictures of the eagle perched on a dead tree, surveying the lake.

The lake is high. There is a lot of water in Skagit County. There is nothing unusual about this. The Skagit River is running full, a little shy of flood stage, but there is a lot of water going by. The city of Mount Vernon has an extensive flood wall system to protect the downtown from flooding, but at present the flood walls are not needed. The lakes in the area are all quite full. Clear Lake has overflowed into the city park, flooding the area under the picnic tables and covering the sand beach where the children love to play. The park has been closed, but reopened a couple of days ago and our grandchildren were able to use it as a base for some kayaking. Grandpa got in a paddle that day, also.

The high water has the boat ramp completely under water and it would be difficult to launch certain boats because of the gap between the edge of the water and the top of the concrete ramp. Our little sailboat, however, doesn’t have that problem. With a set of removable wheels, I can hand launch the boat without the need for a trailer. It fits my basic theory about boating. The less equipment required the more you actually use the boat. At least that works for me. I do, however, have a trailer that I often use with the rowboat so that I don’t have to turn it over and lift it to the rack on the pickup. That trailer is at home, so each launch involves unloading the boat from the rack on the pickup. I have rollers on the rack, however, so it isn’t very difficult.

Launching the boat without the pressure of a schedule is a big luxury that I haven’t had much opportunity to explore. Yesterday turned out to be such an opportunity. I didn’t need to consult my watch. I just slipped the boat into the water and enjoyed the sunrise and solitude of the lake. The marshes around the lake are filed with frogs and the red-winged blackbirds nest in the tall weeds that grow at the water’s edge. There are a few homes right on the water of the lake, but much of the shoreline is in a state that is close to natural. There has been quite a bit of logging on the hillsides around the lake, so the human presence is obvious, but it isn’t hard to overlook that and enjoy the natural setting. Despite our human interventions, the natural world goes on producing new life and healing the earth.

It heals my soul as well. Being on the water reminds me of the presence of the ongoing process of creation that is a part of our world. It gives me time to think.

I’ll be out on the water again soon. I’m learning a whole new set of skills to navigate retirement. The lake is a good place to figure out my new life.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!