Rochester, New York City Guide
Rochester, NY City Guide

© 1996-2015 Max Lent Communications




Moonlight Canoeing On Canadice Lake

Return to Canoe Stories

©1996 Max Lent

August 10, 1995

Thursday morning we shopped for produce at the Rochester Public Market. We had shopped at the market several times over the last couple of weeks. Our goal was to purchase basil, garlic, and pine nuts which we then processed into pesto sauce. We stored the sauce in Seal-A-Meal plastic bags, in meal-size servings, and stored the bags in our freezer. Our goal, this time, was to buy enough fresh basil to make another two dozen portions of pesto. Once this batch was frozen, we would have enough frozen pesto to provide us with a meal of pasta al pesto for two per week until next basil season. Our mission was successful. However, we may go back to the market next week to buy our last basil for the season and put up another dozen meals worth. You never know when someone will stop by and request it for dinner.

Italian tomatoes were also becoming inexpensive, so we bought a peck. These we sliced in half and dehydrated in our convection/microwave oven. Once they were dried, we stored them in jars in the back of our pantry where it is dark. On cold winter days, we take out some of our dried tomatoes, which are indistinguishable from so called "sun dried tomatoes," and rehydrate them. We use just enough boiling water to cover the dried tomatoes and soak them for about a quarter hour. The tomatoes will then be either processed in our food processor to make dried tomato pesto or cut into strips and used as toppings for pizzas along with feta cheese, mushrooms, garlic, and other toppings we happen to have a taste for. Our work processing and drying the tomatoes pays us back handsomely in the form of saved money and in the joy of having a full larder.

Cucumbers were also affordable at the market, so I bought some with the intent of making delicatessen pickles. A crock of cucumbers is currently in our basement supposedly pickling. I'm trying to make what are called new pickles in Jewish delicatessens. We learned to appreciate these through Tina's father, who always requests new pickles whenever he dines at a delicatessen. They don't taste like the pickles that one finds in jars at the supermarket. These have never been cooked or boiled or preserved in the usual sense. They are crisper and fresher tasting and always more garlic flavored than any other pickle I have tasted. The exception might be the refrigerator pickles we have in our refrigerator throughout the summer. It will be interesting to see how they come out. We have to wait at least ten days to discover if the pickling experiment worked.

While processing all of the produce we bought at the market, we speculated whether anyone would join us on our moonlight paddle later in the evening. We are taking our canoe to Canadice lake on moonlit nights often enough to have it qualify as a ritual.

As usual the moonrise was unusual. It is never the same. The clouds, if there are clouds, never repeat their size, type, density, shape, or texture. The moon is never the same color or elicits the same emotion. Although the mystery of the experience is almost always the same. The one thing that is always constant is the beauty of the experience.

This time our party consisted of two. Tina and me. The largest number of other people we have ever seduced into the experience was two. Usually, there are only three of us, Tina, Judy Levy, and myself. Judy is a an artist and a poet, so it is not hard to understand why she is so drawn to view the moon, especially from a canoe in the middle of a lake. We always invite everyone who we believe would appreciate the experience, but our invitations are almost never accepted. Sometimes I feel as though our friends know deep and dark secrets about moonlight canoeing that would also scare us away from the experience if we only knew. This experience is not new to us. When we lived in Los Angeles, we would occasionally get up at about one in the morning and drive downtown to the wholesale produce market. We would return from our trips with stories of produce of almost mystical quality and quantity. Friends and fellow workers were very attentive and showed great appreciation for our stories. Some would ask us to invite them on our next middle-of-the-night excursion. Only twice was I able to convince anyone to actually join us. As far as I know, none of those people ever returned on their own.

When we arrived at the lake, there were at least a dozen cars and trucks parked near the boat ramp. Most of them belonging to fishers who left the lake as soon as the sun began to set. By the time the moon rose we had the lake to ourselves. It was as though the fishers feared the moonrise and wanted to be off the lake before the first moonbeam struck them. Did they know the same scary fact that our friends knew, but didn't tell us?

A strong breeze was blowing from the south when we launched our canoe. By the time everyone else left, the air was perfectly still. Our canoe's passing over the surface of the lake caused the only ripples. We had heard weather reports earlier warning of possible thunderstorms with heavy downpours in some areas. Experience has taught us to ignore weather reports. There was hardly a cloud in the sky when the moon rose. The clouds that were in the sky were wispy and thin, probably high altitude ice clouds.


Blue Herons, one so beautifully colored that we wondered if it was really just a Heron, were fishing in the shallows near the Lily pads and reeds before dark. Ducks swam past us in the dark, hardly noticing our presence. Bats occasionally flitted above our heads. Mating damsel flies landed on the canoe and on our clothes. Mating and flying in perfect unison, I imagined, must be a difficult and tiring task. But, it might be fun.

Paddling south along the western shore, we came across a boat wreck. The boat was a catamaran and was beached with a broken sail. From the wear and tear we observed, the boat had come a great distance and had endured foul weather. The boat was of wooden construction and about a foot long with a tin can lid mounted vertically in the cross beams as a rudder. It's sail was wooden doweling rods covered in a perforated clear plastic bag. The sponsor of the boat must have been a corn company, at least that was what was advertised on the bag. Parts of the wood on the boat had been painted white while the rest of the boat was bare wood. We speculated that its last and only voyage may have been a shakedown cruise. The captain and designer of the boat should be congratulated. It had crossed the lake and had beached high on the shore with a minimal amount of damage. We claimed salvage rights and brought it to our relic museum where we will repair and display it for others to enjoy.

While waiting for the moonrise we put cushions in the bottom of our canoe and slipped off our cane seats onto them. From this new position we could put our feet up and recline. We passed our container of chocolate chip peanut butter cookies back and forth only taking one each time for fear of seeming gluttonous.

Even from our reclining positions we were able to paddle the canoe enough to turn it slowly around so that we could watch the fading colors of daylight and the darkening colors of night. We also strained our eyes looking for another couple who said that they would be joining us late. We never saw them. Later, we learned that the husband of the couple was saving a patient's life in an operating room while we were on the lake. Perhaps that patient will once again see a moonrise, a sunrise or some other personal wonder and appreciate it in ways that we cannot imagine.

The air was delightfully warm until the sun set and then became only cool enough to require a light sweatshirt. The air was so saturated with moisture that we almost missed the moonrise. The color and brightness of the moon, when it slowly became a disk over the eastern hills, was only just perceptibly different from the atmosphere around it. What made us see it was its faint pinkish glow. As it moved higher in the sky it became what appeared to be a smaller disk of greater brightness, another atmospheric effect.

[My apologies to Buckminster Fuller for describing the sun setting and the moon rising when, in fact, they do neither. The importance of the perception of the observer in modern physics may partially justify my anthropocentric perspective. If not, I'll claim poetic license.]

Judy's company was missed, so were Terri's and Tom's and Gordon's. They all added something special to the experience when they were present. Sadly, I didn't write about the trips with Gordon or with Tom and Terri, the previous two moonrise paddles in June and July. I was too busy. A poor excuse and one that caused me great personal distress. I was busy promoting a book I had written. I was too busy promoting my writing to write. In retrospect this makes little sense, but at the time I felt a greater responsibility to what I had created than to what I might create. There were substantial problems with the printing of the book and its index. These and other problems dealing with the promotion and marketing of the book took up all of my writing time. I can say, however, that the evenings with Judy, Gordon, Tom and Terri were enjoyable, beautiful, and mysterious.

We sat quietly thinking private thoughts as the moon rose higher, became brighter, and appeared to shrink in size. A time came when we knew it was time to leave. No alarm went off, no clock was examined, and no obvious condition had changed, but we knew it was time to leave.

This time, we paddled straight down the middle of the lake toward the boat ramp. The last few cars and trucks were pulling their boats onto trailers. Bright taillights pointed toward the lake and brighter headlights illuminating the forest provided us with kind of beacon to paddle towards. On the way back, Tina often sets a strong pace with her paddle. We were quickly warm enough from our exertions to remove our sweatshirts. A slight tailwind helped us along and showed us where it was blowing through the ripples it created on the water. Just for the fun of it, I steered us toward a smooth area of water to see if the breeze was absent there. It was. Paddling back into the stream of the breeze we immediately picked up a little speed. The communications tower located near the top of the hill to the west appeared from behind another hill as we paddled closer to the boat ramp. Another geographical marker is a house located on a distant northern hill. It's outside security light, when it is on and when it is visible, gives us a indication that the boat ramp is in roughly the same direction. The moisture in the air on this night made the distant light barely visible.

The routine of running our canoe into the shore, unloading it, loading the car, putting the canoe on the roof of the car, and strapping it down is accomplished without much conversation. We have practiced our roles and responsibilities enough that we automatically know what to do. The last boat on the lake was loaded onto a trailer and towed away before we finished packing up to leave. Once again, we were alone on the lake. This enabled us to see the moonrise one last time in privacy. The moon rose over the trees behind the boat launch ramp and illuminated us with a brilliantly defused light. We stood in silence for a few minutes soaking up the moment as best we could before leaving.


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