Monday, April 26, 2010

The Lake's Steely Grip

I've heard the tales of others' mishaps, dropped keys, eyeglasses, sunglasses, fishing tackle, favored barware dropped from the pontoon boat serving as party barge, tools dropped while assembling and dissassembling the dock or working on a boat motor, and the very modern versions with dropped cell phones and GPS devices. So when I am out paddling in my little canoe with my treasured camera, I have a system. The camera goes into the chest pocket of my life vest in a zip lock bag. When I am taking landscape photos of the scenery and fellow paddlers, the wrist strap of the camera is snapped into the strap that holds that pocket closed. I can take most pictures with the camera safely snapped into its combined pocket strap/wrist strap tether. When I need to reach out to take a shot of a shoreline flower or the leaves of an overhanging branch, the wrist strap goes around my wrist where it belongs. Alas, the weak point in that fine chain of safety procedures is the transfer point between pocket and wrist, and it was just such a weak point that allowed my beloved camera to be stolen from me last week. I was drifting under some overhanging shoreline branches trying to shoot a little bright green plant growing in a leaf litter filled gap in a tree root that had been eroded bare along the bank, when I decided I had to put the camera away and do some serious remaneuvering to get around an offending shrub that was blocking the perfect angle. I had slipped the camera off my wrist and was moving it to the vest pocket when my boat drifted me into a tree branch that snagged the camera and some other part of me or my boat then released itself to fling the camera out into the water. At least that is what I think happened. One moment I was sliding the camera into its plastic bag lined pocket and the next, I was watching bubbles rise about a foot and an half from my boat.
I stared at the bubbles, stunned. I cussed. I tried to look down into the water to see if it was visible. I stuck my paddle straight down in to see how deep it was: about 4 feet. When you can't swim, four feet under water might as well be fifty. There was no way I could go into the water along that shore of rocky boulders to ever try to get it back, especially not when out there alone. The lake had my camera as though in a steel trap, as though buried a dozen yards underground, as though on the surface of the moon. I would not be taking any more pictures with that one or even retrieving from it all the wonderful shots I had taken so far that day. I cussed some more. I cried. I called my husband on my cell phone, daring the risk of the loss of another electronic devise. He said it was just stuff and to enjoy the rest of my paddle. I cried some more. And paddled away, after one last look at the unphotographed pretty little plant growing in the tree root. And I paddled resolutely down the middle of the channel to the lake. With no camera to photograph it, I chose to avoid the shoreline with its taunting spring wildflowers and fresh green mosses and ferns and rock shapes and sculptural tree roots. I stayed out farther in the deeper water and paddled continuously, testing my stamina and my fears of the deeper waters. I paddled one landmark past the farthest I have paddled alone and then turned around to head for home. It was about then, in that last half hour before sunset, that the light wind diminished totally, and the clear bright light of the low angled sun made the shoreline trees glow warm and brilliant. The reflections in the water were perfect, rippled slightly in a uniform pattern, much like looking at a mirror made of antique rolled glass. I could read the words of the shoreline signs in their reflections, I could see individual catkins on the reflections of the birch trees, I could count the five individual needles that identify the shoreline trees as white pines in their beautiful perfect reflections. Ah, the photographs I could have taken. But I just paddled slowly, cognizant of the limited daylight left in which to make my way back to the home dock. I stopped now and then to drift and soak in the beautiful perfect views. It occurred to me at one point that the views were so perfect that it was as if there was no surface to the water and I was suspended above a perfect upside down world. I decided not to dwell on that thought too long, lest it rouse my latent fear of heights to combine with my suppressed fear of water which might come to bad result in my heightened emotional state of loss about the camera and joy about the beauty around me. So I paddled and drifted and enjoyed the amazing reflections of the beautiful nature of the lake.
And in case you are fond of details, I ordered a replacement camera last night. It was a $215 mistake.


Chuckles said...

Sometimes you have to use the movie in your mind (Miss Saigon)...

XSarenkaX said...

I'm so proud of you for handling this adverse situation. Despite whatever frustrations you had at the moment, you were at peace enough to write about the experience in a calm and rational way.

Thank you for sharing your unique experience with the world, fears, frustrations, lovely details, and all.