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Moonlight Canoeing On Canadice Lake

Return to Canoe Stories

©1999 Max Lent

May 30, 1999

The date is May 30, 1999. The time is 8:53 p.m. The sky is clear and the air temperature is about 75 degrees. I'm floating in our canoe alone near the western shore of Canadice lake. This is the first time I have canoed the lake alone, truly alone. Tina is in St. Petersburg, Russia and is probably just waking up about now. Being here alone is lonely and serenely beautiful at the same time. I offer to share the experience with friends and colleagues, as I have said in the past. Rarely does anyone actually accept the invitation. I half expected that several colleagues from work join me on this outing. There was much discussion and halfhearted plans made. In the end, I am alone. The night is so very beautiful that it saddens me that they won't get to see, smell, hear, and feel it. 

When I arrived, about an hour ago, most, all but one, of the other boaters were taking their boats out at the boat ramp. This is a holiday weekend, Memorial Day, and I am alone on the lake. This is a little scary in that I cannot call for help if I get into trouble. A little fear is worth the price for solitude. If even one of my invitations had been accepted I would be denied the adventure of being alone on the lake. 

I'm writing this on the lake in the canoe using a Palm III personal digital assistant and a GoType keyboard. The Palm III has a backlit screen that enables me to write in the dark. When I get home I will transfer these notes to a desktop computer for editing and publishing to the Web. 

I must be looking old. While lifting the canoe off the top of the car someone asked if they could help me. Either that or they were just being kind. I’ll hope it was the latter. A couple sitting on the shore asked if I was going to do some serious fishing. When I told them that I was going out to watch the moonrise and write they seemed pleasantly surprised. I told them I would be publishing what I wrote to my Web site. They asked for the URL in a way that made me believe that they would visit it.  

Paddling across the lake I could see jet con trails reflected in the water. When ripples hit the contrails the contrails became animated. Their motion was serpentine making them look like they were hurrying off to someplace, which, in a way, they were. 

Someone on the eastern shore owns a peacock. Just at sunset, it called for about a minute and then stopped. The only sound on the lake now is motorcycles and cars and those are decreasing over time. 

 

Since I last canoed Canadice Lake, I have been to India and Nepal with brief stops in England. I’ve been on photo safaris hunting tigers and rhinos from atop elephants. I’ve flown to Everest on Buddha Air, shopped in the old city section of New Delhi, bartered with merchants in Katmandu, and have been driven dangerously fast on narrow roads in Jaipur. Now, I am back on Canadice Lake. I was curious whether having traveled to such exciting and exotic places would degrade the simple pleasure of watching a moonrise on a quiet lake in upstate New York. What I learned was that my enjoyment hadn’t changed at all. My life if richer for having traveled to foreign lands, but my appreciation for simple pleasures hasn’t changed at all. 

I'm going to pause now and paddle south to toward our usual moonrise viewpoint. 

The moon first showed its self as a glow behind the trees on the eastern hills. At the first sign of a glow I found myself becoming excited with expectation. When the first point of light shot through the treetops I felt a joy and jubilation that was hard to justify. After all, I have seen this same scene many times. I guess that I was as amazed at not having become jaded at seeing the moonrise. Even after seeing the moonrise repeatedly over the years from this very spot, I am thrilled and excited by the experience. There is something about the experience that is primal and mysterious.  

The moon showed its self as a small disk the color of old linen as seen with a light behind it. As the moon climbed into the sky its color changed to light yellow and then to nearly white. It would have probably looked whiter, but a large bonfire a mile or two beyond the end of the lake was sending a light smoky haze down the lake. The bonfire was hidden from me, but I could see the smoke. I fantasized that an ancient Indian village would have identified its self with a similar column of smoke. 

I brought along a tape recorder to attempt to record some night sounds. If the recording was successful, I'll attach it to this page. While I attempted to remain perfectly still so as not to scare the animals I watched lightening beetles pulsing the light in their abdomens off and on as they sat on branches in the trees. My canoe drifted to shore from being gently pushed by a slight breeze. I could hear the water plants scraping the bottom of the canoe as it glided over them. A dead tree trunk that was partially submerged in the water stopped the canoe. I pulled out the floatation cushions from beneath my seat and sat on the floor with one propped up against the canoe seat. From this vantage point I was very comfortable and could watch and listen to what was going on around me. 

A bat just flew close by catching insects. For a while, just as the moon was coming up there were large numbers of insects hatching at the surface of the water. There were so many that it looked like rain was falling. They caused hundreds of little circles of ripples. 

It is 11 p.m. now. The space shuttle should have passed over couple of times since I have been on the lake. I wonder if any of the crew had a fleeting thought of someone floating on a serene lake below them, probably not.  

I back paddled out of the shallows and then paddled half way across the lake to the western shore and wrote. A breeze so light that it is not even making ripples is pushing me down the lake at a very gentle pace. At this rate I should reach my take out by morning. 

When I left Rochester our house was uncomfortably hot. The air temperature was in the high 80s. I had the car air conditioning on all the way to Lakeville. Now, on the lake, it is cool enough that I slipped on a sweatshirt. I wonder if I will have to put on a jacket over my sweatshirt. 

I'm going to start paddling back now. If I stay up too late I will have a hard time getting back on schedule to go to work next week. 

The moon is bright enough now that it is making shadows amongst the trees on the western shore. As I paddled down the lake, the night sounds faded behind me. About half way down the lake I discovered that I could paddle a tandem canoe straight with a little effort, but only if I paddled on one side. As soon as I changed sides the canoe started to turn. I was able to paddle in a straight line for a few minutes, but then lost the touch. My friend Leni Field would have been proud of me, at least when I was paddling on the left. Leni guided my first canoe lessons on a small lake in an artificial lake in southern California. Her lessons didn’t take. It took years of trial and error for me to figure out what Leni was trying to show me. 

I had no difficulty finding the takeout. A car was parked there with its lights on for the entire time that it took me to paddle back to the take out. When I came ashore, I noticed that the car was attached to a boat trailer that was still in the water with a boat attached. The engine was running and a man stood nearby. I asked the owner if the car if he was ok and if he needed help. He told me that he had locked his keys in the car and that the Sheriff had stopped and attempted to break into the card without success. The sheriff had left to find someone to help the driver. While he waited for help, he practiced casting with his rod and reel from shore. I offered my cellular phone to the driver, but he said that he didn’t need it and that help was on the way. 

By the time I got my canoe on the top of my car and my gear stowed in the trunk, it was after midnight. Driving back home, I felt tired from the exercise and excited from the experience. I slept well that night.

 

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