Close to the Waters Surface

As the cormorants crest along in the surfactant layer, inches from the water’s surface, I glide easily, creating little wake. In my canoe, I channel the earliest explorers in their intrepid journeys.

To paddle a canoe on a calm stream denotes perfect confidence in one’s own ability to conduct profitable business. This is part of the folklore of canoe symbolism.

And it is in the hull of the perfectly crafted vessel, of birch bark and spruce, held together by sap and gum, that one sees the wisdom that inspires toward resolution or containment, toward futuristic posturing amid the calmest waters.

I hated canoeing when I was a girl. Too much work and the river bored me. I far prefered windsurfing or waterskiing or learning to sail on Lake Pokegama, where there was virtually no breeze.

And it’s not now that I will push off from the sandbar and paddle my way downstream or up. I’d still far prefer the quixotic excitement of a constant kayak paddling in windy bay waters or the firm breeze of a long careful sail under bright sun.

But it is the canoe which calls to me in its symbolic reference to freedom and exploration, to uncharted discovery along tree-lined banks and even in storms.

It is the symbol of military, of migration, of trade relations built over time and conversation. A canoe paddle’s cadence on the meandering waters of a stream or a lake, the need to hoist it overhead and portage from waterline to waterline, the logic imposed by early canoe routes.

All of this, it’s a simple understanding of the formation of place and presence. Of borders determined not in arbitrary lines but in deliberate examination of the benefits of both sides. The canoe conveys a sense of wilderness and past success, a symbol of navigation, of alliance, of grandure, of expansion and frontier.

My moorings fastened, my dawn broken, the air kissing cool in the dew, the canoe turns over to rest on the banks and I stretch my arms toward the sky.


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