After so much preparation, we are finally at the river. My husband slides the canoe into the water and almost before we pick up our paddles, we are swept into the current, gathered in, as if into the arms of a loved one.
Dick and I have been paddling together over thirty years and he taught me how. I remember how graceful it looked when he showed me, how awkward it felt when I tried it. Dip, pull, lift, twist in one seamless movement.
“You’re a good paddler,” he says now from the stern and I nod, clunking the paddle against the bow. If I think about it, I lose my rhythm. Looking down, I see how fast we’re going, see leaves tumbling under water and spinning out ahead of us.
The branches of a dead tree give the river a voice, a rippling soft song. A wind roughens the surface and scatters sunlight into a thousand dancing pieces. Everything is moving, sunlight into shadow, silence into singing. During all our getting ready, the river was going and flowing, ready or not.
I look down and see how fast we’re going, how thirty years have vanished like leaves tumbling and spinning away. I feel the current under the canoe, so strong that I could stop paddling if I wanted to—but I don’t.