Taking note: Paddling ahead

I didn’t even know it had been raining until I saw the damp pavement upon stepping outside. The air was humid and sweet, unusual for this time of year. It was much warmer than I would have imagined for a night in late September.

But you never know these days.

Astronomical fall has arrived. Meteorological fall seems to come and go.

Even within a single day, there can be so many shifts in the weather. A day that starts bright and sunny can transform into a windy, bitterly cold day. Or a chilly, rainy morning can give way to a warm, languid afternoon.

It’s the kind of weather that makes it difficult to plan outdoor activities. But it’s always worth a try.

Around this time last year, I set out to canoe on what seemed like a cold, overcast day.

I hesitated to embark on the journey, wondering if a downpour might begin as I was in the middle of the canoe trip.

However, I ended up convincing myself to go, knowing that it might be my last chance to canoe before winter hit.

I tried to believe that the weather would hold out or even turn around.

But as I got closer to the river, the sky remained an unrelenting wall of gray, daring me to continue my journey.

It wasn’t encouraging. I was glad to be wearing a sweater, jeans and a rain jacket. I wished I’d brought a thermos of tea or coffee, as this was sure to be a cold, damp day on the river.

But as I arrived at the site where I’d launch the canoe, the clouds slowly began to clear.

I pushed the canoe away from the river bank with a mixture of trepidation and hope.

The waters were so still, so clear. I watched as each stroke of the paddle created a small whirling vortex in its wake.

As I pressed on, I was surprised to realize the sun was coming out. I didn’t need my jacket anymore.

Before I knew it, it was 70 degrees and sunny. It seemed like a miracle, a little gift for pressing on despite my hesitancy.

Iridescent dragonflies buzzed around me, wings and eyes glinting in the newfound sunlight.

The air held the lovely humid sweetness of a fall day turned suddenly warm.

The river was unusually deserted. It was void of other recreators, likely because of the seemingly poor weather earlier in the day.

I relished the sunshine, the stillness, the gentle sounds of my paddle pushing through the slow-moving waters of the river.

It seemed like things couldn’t get much better.

But then they did.

A sudden motion along the riverbank caught my eye. I saw a glimpse of brown fur, perhaps a tail.

The creature slid beneath the water. And when it reached the center of the river, it lifted its head.

I was awestruck.

The creature in the water was a river otter.

My favorite animal.

An animal I’ve only seen in the wild a handful of times, despite all my efforts.

I was amazed that the otter chose to dive into the river despite my presence. The glorious little creature even swam alongside the canoe for a brief, beautiful moment before plunging beneath the surface again.

My heart soared. I could hardly believe my luck.

I was so glad that I trusted the weather on this day when no one else did, as I imagine the deserted state of the river was why I saw the otter, why it dove in the water and swam alongside my canoe.

And although it was about a year ago now, I still think of this experience often.

I reflect on this moment when I’m having doubts about a situation.

This memory never fails to remind me that practicing optimism and trust in the face of doubt can lead to the most beautiful situations.

Things that are so wonderful that they seem impossible.

But so much can become possible if we are willing to trust ourselves and our world.

We can open ourselves up to so much happiness if we face our fears.

It’s not easy. But it’s still worth doing.

Because when we dare to paddle forward and face our fears, we just might find that joyful surprises lie right around the river bend.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Cecilia Brown is city editor at The Mining Journal. She lives in Marquette and can be found hiking if the weather’s nice, or curled up with a book if not. Contact her at cbrown@miningjournal.net.


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