The lake calls to you. After wild wind and churning waves, the almost unbelievable stillness, smoothness of the water touches an ancestral thirst and you have to get closer, you have to dive in.
I pulled on my rubber boots and carried my stand up paddleboard down the lichen-covered rocks to the water. Without too much maneuvering I found a cove deep enough for the fin and climbed on.
The lakebed here is more like Sugarloaf Cove than the Grand Marais harbor: big slabs of smooth rock with occasional nests of tumbled stones the size of my head resting in comfortable depressions.
The water hummed against the shore, into itself. The late sun shone at an angle that illuminated the depths below my feet as if I was seeing stained glass in a church. (Isn’t this the only church I really want to go to?)
It’s April, and this is Lake Superior, so I hugged the shore just in case I ended up in the drink, but I didn’t: a steady, gentle glide of the paddle, an easy stance in the middle of the board (that nonetheless made my feet tired afterward), the long familiarity with myself and floating vessels and water: skating is my favorite in the winter. Swimming and paddling are my favorites in the summer. All of them are some slower, more mortal version of flying, of riding a current, of fluid movement without thought.
To be on the lake today was to be a little kid skating on the pond Chip had cleared, not cutting across the field for home until long after dark when my fingers and toes were finally stiff and aching. It was to return to Spectacle Lake and the water wheel and the smooth, sandy bottom, and the paper-thin snail shells that washed up on the beach in the early morning.
To stand on water is to walk on water: a miracle. To live by this lake is a continuous revelation if I stop and feel it. To push off from shore into Lake Superior is an honest faith: I hope you don’t kill me, but I’ll still love you if you do, because you’re the biggest, truest thing in my daily life, and you exist simply for your own sake. What is it we call “God” but that?
I paddled into the setting sun, then back to the point, and finally I nosed back in among the rocks, clambered off with far more grace than I’d expected, and carried my board up to the house just in time for supper.