I went for a paddle this morning. Knowing it to be one of the last warmer fall mornings. Relaxing a bit, knowing I couldn’t get in the water as early as I do in the summer with daylight lapsing, yet still one of the only boats on the water.
Not being much of a cold water person, perhaps it’s Raynaud’s Syndrome that creates white finger tips and toes, my paddling season nears its end soon. I quietly settled myself into my kayak this morning, the water glassy as I love it most, moon still visible yet early daybreak creeping in from the east. I imagine my mind to be free of all that dwells in its crevices…yet, they seep out. Pandemic thoughts and worries. They won’t wait for the first work email of the day, the advice I might share to a colleague, or the travel tips I might share with my soon-to-fly daughter. And, certainly, as I finish Lilac Girls, details about imprisoned Rabbits and Herta Oberhauser, have me already in a sorrowful state.
Paddle. The moon is but a whisper. The river so very glassy. The green algae gathering near the shorelines
No, I haven’t yet had a close friend or family member die from COVID, although I know of many who have lost loved ones and others in my wider acquaintance circle. And too, I have lost so many friends in these past two years, of other things. I do know – as we must all now – so many who have been robbed of health, two for what might feel like forever. I worry for my 27-year-old healthcare worker daughter and others like her… dispirited by so many dying and lying ill, exhausted while hooking some up to machines knowing it may not help, while yet displacing others whose chances might be better. Living through so much death, feeling a medical-care hopelessness not felt in their lifetimes. Working long hours, taxing their immune systems before succumbing to breakthrough COVID, some of them like this daughter, quarantining, knowing they will be less sick because of the vaccine but that their coworkers will work even longer shifts to make up for them not being at work. All because so many still fight back against the one thing we do know makes a difference. And so much of the world far worse than us.
Stop thinking. Paddle. The sun is rising. Hesitate. A heron stands at the edge of the river. An osprey dives down to catch breakfast. The current carries me. Paddle again.
I worry for the essential workers on the front lines, many who still fear they may acquire COVID, others who won’t go back to a job because of its risk and demands. Yet I, so privileged, can choose to work at home. I worry for community members living in employer-provided housing, sharing walls with others who may not be family, anxious if those others take precautions or place them at higher risk. I worry for the parents with children excited to be back in school, and send prayers that everything done to protect them further is enough. That they stay healthy.
Paddle. Paddle. Enter Reflection Point. Breathe again. Although stressed by heat, leaves display fall color. Breathe. Sigh. Breathe again. Drift.
And yes, I know some who choose not to be vaccinated. Very few in my world. Don’t trust, don’t believe. I get that – except – I don’t. COVID data speaks louder. For all the unknowns – yes, there are risks, life is full of risks. And COVID kills. Selfishness prevails – this reluctance to look out beyond oneself. The bottom line. No I’m not preaching even though it sounds like I am, sharing my innermost thoughts, spilling forth from deep inside while I paddle on this river I love. Underneath a gorgeous morning sky full of hope, providing hope, even today, against all that pushes down on us.
I harken back to early spring 2020 as I explained the virus to Mom, reminding her about the Flu of 1918. She said she didn’t remember much about it because she wasn’t alive, but boy was it bad! Yes, and I blogged about that, including a few notes shared by my g-g-grandfather J.K. Gill (see Masks and quarantines: Spanish Flu to COVID-19). Reflecting then on school closures, home made-masks, marks on doors. Thinking then, nothing can be as bad as that. We have so much more knowledge. And yet just this week we learn that COVID deaths have exceeded those of the 1918 Flu. I was wrong, Mom.
I paddle. No swim, I decide though, pulling briefly onto Cedar Island. No longer ripe blackberries but withered on the vine. I paddle again. My inner voice stream has almost run dry. Yes, this blog is sad. Yes, I still have hope. My work travel last week opened my emotional door to a next step of moving ahead. Yet the losses remain. And so much unknown lies ahead.
Now I relax. I have spilled what’s in my head and heart. And yes, the river remains. And now, all that is left for these moments of paddling is the song I first sang as a child, my inner and outer voices merging as I paddle. I do it quietly, this song like many from our childhoods to be racist. Yet, I can’t quiet my voice this morning and I sing softly, only the refrain that I remember from so long ago.
Our paddles keen and bright, Flashing like silver; Swift as the wild goose flight, Dip, dip, and swing. Dip, dip, and swing them back, Flashing like silver; Swift as the wild goose flight, Dip, dip and swing.