At first the lake was perfectly still, a set for a canoeing commercial, and we glided along like people who lived in a tent most of the time and traveled on foot instead of who we are, people who live in a house and drive an SUV.
We bore left to go past the beaver’s home and then right to go across the larger part of the lake to the shallows where, in the past, we’ve eaten our lunch among the reeds and watched frogs. But as soon as we came around the curve, the wind came up, rippling the water that came toward us so we paddled harder, the two of us have paddled into stronger winds, sometimes headed our canoe over little whitecaps when the weather has suddenly turned.
But this wind was different, lower, moving the top of the water, not just roiling it, so when we stopped paddling, the wind moved our canoe directly backwards as if someone was pulling a long string from shore, reeling us in. We tried again, paddling hard. But we only stood still. We were able to keep from going backward but that was all.
This has happened to me before, I thought. Paddling really hard and getting nowhere.
We let the wind blow us back. And we ate our lunch.
After lunch, we tried again. And again, the wind blew us back. There would be no paddling across the lake to get to the big shallows where the frogs might be waiting.
Turning around meant that our canoe trip would be short, not the full afternoon of moseying around the water lilies. So I was disappointed and looking for ways to make our short trip back last longer.
On the left were smaller shallows, just little inlets with fallen tree branches and sprouts of lake grass. We maneuvered into one, squeezing our wide canoe between a tree stump and a sturdy mound with its own tiny gnarled forest, the water going from a foot to a few inches deep, the wee-est fish skittering in our path. There was no wind there.
There were dragonflies. They flew around us but never stopped on our canoe, never posed for a proper picture. The dragonflies and the sun through the trees were our rewards for knowing when to quit.