First, I went to public pools. You paid, there were always a bunch of rules and creepers and sneering eyes at a tattooed fat girl in a bikini. The children set themselves up as the guardians of the rules. I rarely had a guard whistle at me for infractions because some pussy-fruit-micro-pool-crossing-guard was already saying: you can't swim there, then; you can't throw him in the air; you can't carry her on your back in the water, you can't bring your ball and pool noodles in.
public pools = distorted reality. subtle?
This is what I'm paying for?
So, I started sneaking into hotel pools. Well, there wasn't much difference except I didn't have to pay.
It occurred to me that there were lots of lakes I could just go jump into for free! This is a fundamentally better experience. Imagine having actual nature surrounding your swimming experience rather than concrete and major thoroughfares and snot-nosed-unpaid-security-guards. (Is it good for the children?) I drove to any ole spot along a lake I could walk up on, I walked right in. Easiest thing in the world. I swam with bald eagles, hawks, owls, herons, a shit-ton of shit-making Canadian Geese, feet hitting fish, muskrats, snakes and frogs and turtles and wind, natural wind shaking the trees, sunlight visible on the lake water. The peacefulness I was chasing was finally settling in.
At the nudie lake (please be at a nudist lake or beach at some point in your life, it is amazing to be unshorn under the sun), they had a canoe you could use for free.
The minute I got in that canoe, something changed. Looking back, it's like I'd never known happiness before. Which is completely ridiculous, but the experience of floating and rowing, the impetus of nothing, the rush of water, the control of the boat, the chaos of the boat, balance, purpose, awareness, rocking, being, it was a next level feeling. It was like instant meditation, total immersion in the present.
I kept going back to that canoe as much as I could, including the night of the Perseid meteor shower in August. It just so happens the nudie lake is in the middle of one of the nearest "no-light-zones" to Kansas City. So Mateo and I go out there with sandwiches and wine and climb into the canoe. Above us is straight-up the Milky Way. Our galaxy above us stretches from horizon to horizon, wrapping us completely around, it's no wonder the ancients thought we were the center of everything, because I have never felt so held as in that moment with the stars and my love. Billions of stars, the planets wandering at their speeds, the satellites faster, and the airplanes fastest. But closest, and wonky and seemingly drunk flying, the bats! An entire environment of air beings I never get to see. What was most unexpected though, was the reflection of the stars on the mirror of the lake. With the exception of a small band of trees on the circle of the horizon, it seemed as if I were floating in the center of an egg of stars, and being so small but so part, I felt a very rare but unbelievably honest feeling: I belong.
Oh yeah, and the meteorites were cool, too.
Now, I've always been fascinated with the ocean, and so I started thinking about how all rivers lead to the ocean. I started thinking about our river: The Missouri goes all the way to the delta of the Gulf Coast. Delta, the ultimate boundary condition: fresh to salt, feeder of the original womb, turbulent, great and terrible. I already spend a good amount of time down on the river walk, but this time when I go, the feeling is different.
Suddenly, there was longing. How much have I really longed for ? I've wanted and loved and worked for, but this sense of longing was new, it felt as if a part of me bundled its energy and reached out a cord which grabbed a fistful of water and took me away: took me to the delta. I can feel it this minute as I type, it's a calling. It's like I'm the weird alien water tentacle from The Abyss.
So, I got my own boat, an 8 foot Pelican feet-in kayak. I kept going to my lakes and learning the relationship between the paddle and the water, the boat and my balance, my arms and their push/pull, the stability of feet and rapid movement of waist. What is most surprising is the agility of the boat in the water, you can turn more quickly than I thought.
I started trying to get myself in the river, this was complete madness and some real shark behavior. Shark Behavior in my lexicon of private metaphors is when you are moving to stay moving and not really thinking out how to do a thing, or more importantly, if you really want it. It's a coping mechanism I've developed to avoid the hard work of outwitting one's own depression, anxiety, and for me, especially, panic. After the second failed attempt to get in the river, I said I need help.
Within the next couple of days, I pull up in my truck to the bookstore (duh, Prospero's = the bookstore, always and forever) with the kayak on top and my buddy Porter, in his happy drawl goes:
yeah! I been in some lakes, but what I want is to get in the river.
I've been on the river my whole life, I'll take you.
are you fucking kidding? hell, yes. what are you doing on Sunday?
nothing, let's go!
Then, Rando-Sully goes: do you guys have life-jackets?
Porter and I look at each other with this, um, do I want to admit right now that I don't practice safe boating practices? We both go: no.
Rando-Sully shakes his head and says: I have a couple in my car you two can have.
Are you fucking kidding me right now? This is fucking real. And Sunday is my birthday.
It's enough to make a man cry, but I don't cry, do you?
(photo credit: ROBERT GANO!)
on to part 2: THE RIVER.