I do a lot of sports, and there a lot of sports I don’t do. The sport that I don’t do and don’t really ever plan on doing is climbing. ‘Fraid of heights and ‘fraid of dyin’. Other sports on my bucket list, which I have just not gotten around to yet, include downhill skiing, scuba diving, and now paddleboarding. Would that I had world enough and time, these coy mistresses would not continue to elude me. Carpe diem.
Then there are those sports I only get to do a few times a year–surfing, kayaking, cross-country skiing–because the weather and geography gods, hands wringing together gleefully, deem it so. The last time I went surfing was Christmas ’09 (it pains me to type that), and the surf rental and wave nymphs seem to be conspiring as well.
But kayaking I get to do at least once a year. Because at least once a year I head home to Little Rhody to see the fam, inhale some clam chowda, and hit the water. A high school friend of mine, an avid kayaker, is always up for an epic kayak adventure. Two summers ago we paddled to Greene Island from the Edgewood Yacht Club and collected shells on a shipwreck of an island. Last year we explored the nooks and crannies of the the Great Swamp.
We put in at the boat launch and paddled our way northward, hugging the middle-west of the pond after ducking underneath the bridge.
The water was just a few inches deep, and we took our time, picking up shells with the kind of enthusiasm usually reserved for elementary school children, which we felt like, at that moment.
We were concerned, at the beginning of our shell-collecting adventure, with razor clam shells, so named for their elongated , somewhat elliptical shapes. After that we were digging with our fingers and coming up with scallop shells, mussel shells, and quahog shells. Almost all of them empty but pristine.
Then we headed for the shallow, wild blue yonder, with islands smattered here and there and boats passing on the western edge because by now the eastern edge was only inches deep.
We paddled past a family picnicking on pizza and a huge fruit tray, and they were kind enough to share in that special way only natives know how: “Come ova heyah and git sum pizza now.” We had packed a full lunch of oversized spring rolls from the farmer’s market in Pawtuxet and a special treat for when our journey was almost over: cheap champagne and cranberry juice, with which to drink poinsettias. Christmas drinking in July for all our hard work. More on that later.
So we paddled, paddled, paddled, fighting this current, sailing with that current, laughing giddily at the beauty of the day, the simplicity of it all. We
spotted the killer beach house we would never buy, all 500 square feet of it, with its own breakwater and dock. Asking price? Just over half a million. We snaked through some inlets, passing yachts and Donzis and killer homes, the kind where you could just wade out and dig for dinner. Sigh.
We zigged when the rest of the boats zagged and landed in a southerly cove, with nothing but a few houses and some egrets and osprey.
Osprey were continually flying overhead, with their massive wingspans, and at one point we could see one bringing another prime stick to the nest. We put our ornithologist caps on and just watched the aviary dances around us. S took some photos and marveled, and not necessarily in that order.
We lally-gogged our way through the quiet cove, talking in old-school library whispers, and feeling very, very lucky. And then….mud and a dead end. The dead end marked the portage, which we knew was coming. S wanted to turn around and head back. But I knew such a move would spoil the magic of the day, the sense of discovery, and the challenge of getting a kayak, and a person and a very important cooler full of cheap champagne to the other side. Plus, there would be no Poinsettia Island if we turned back now.
There was no getting out of the kayak because the mud was feet deep and smelled strongly of sulfur–not very friendly. So I began pelvic lurching the kayak through the mud, arching the back forward and, using the pelvis as a fulcrum, forcing the kayak forward, about six inches at a time. Still, progress was being made. S looked on from twenty feet away, still convinced that turning around was the better option. But we could see and hear the cars passing on the road that marked our portage. I was not giving up Poinsettia Island.
The pelvis lurching was a great ab workout, so I’m expecting that six-pack from my 30s to re-emerge from the fridge any second now.
The lurching also left a trail, better known as an imprint.
The only solid ground was reeds attached to mussels, and I faltered a bit heave-hoeing myself onto those marine hillocks. Suction almost stole one of my sandals, but stubborness prevailed and using the muddy paddle I coaxed the kayak up and onto the closest thing to land I’d seen in 20 minutes. S was motivated by my success and followed suit. We were on our way.
We dragged the kayaks through ten-foot high reeds and eventually onto the asphalt. I have never been so happy to see asphalt in my life, except for that one time on cross-country skis. We scoped out the other side, noted the poison ivy growing everywhere except where we had been (how lucky!) and made a plan to portage the boats over to the rocky section of beach instead of plunging once again into the mud. The second half of the portage was downright cushy as compared to the first.
After re-entering the water, we returned to that blissful state we had known while collecting shells. And Poinsetta Island was just ahead. We paddled with our legs out of the water so the mud would dry.
We shorelined for Poinsettia Island, being careful not to alert the neighbors (probably landowners) to our arrival. We attacked the champagne and spring rolls, and laughed at our good fortune. Then we went for a swim in the warm, quahog-filled waters, enjoying the sunshine and full bellies and slight light-headedness.
We were six miles into our eight-mile journey by then, and during that long rest period someone had hung barbells onto my arms. Drag. Actually, we dragged our fingers through the shallow water, and listened to the feedback: unnnhhhh, nnnnvvvv, ththththuh, nuhhhhh.
Stupid English phonology. None of those is right. Think dull roar meets trickle. Back at the boat launch, we were sad and glad the journey was over. But! Still friends:
And it was over, six hours later. Favorite quote of the day, directed to me during the portage: “I can’t hear what you’re saying over your big brass balls clanging together.” Not brass balls. Just determination.