At a dark 5 a.m. the alarm I stuffed beneath my pillow just before passing out sounds. Immediately and instinctively I slide my hand palm up to touch a button, any button, that will silence the alien sounds to both mine and my bedmate’s ears. I am surprised by the ease of the transition from dream world to still reality and the traverse from bed to door, the avoidance of snoring furry landmines too deep within their sleep to be disturbed by such trivial matters as those tinny sounding machines which cause humans to rise from squirrel dreams.
I flip the kitchen light on, make myself a cup of coffee in the ancient aluminum percolator made to travel on camping trips, and while intermittently sipping, I dress and gather my things. Water, lunch waterproofed in a reused zip-lock bag, dog food, sunscreen, amphibious camera, byte of cord, carabiner, keys to a borrowed car. My paddleboard is already tied to the car, my paddle loaded in anticipation of the morning. I flip the kitchen light off and crack the bedroom door and whisper my dog’s name. Slowly, yawning and stretching, she rises.
We arrive at the lake about a half hour before sunrise, bright moon progressively growing amber, slipping from sight drawing the blue dark with it. By the time I loose the ties from the roof rack and make it to water with packed dry bag, board, paddle and dog, I no longer need the aid of artificial light.
Saia plants herself between my feet, I push away from shore only slightly disturbing the fog clutching smooth depth. There are only the sounds of birds waking, fish feeding and that sweet swishy suckling noise of the water as it makes opposing swirls around the blade of my paddle. My mass parts the fog with its sheer presence and the cool dampness slithers over my exposed skin, raising small nodules at the base of each hair follicle.
I paddle and set my strokes to their own rhythm, and I paddle. The air is brisk enough to cause the water that grazes the soles of my feet as I shift my weight to bank for a turn to feel warmer than itself. I round a corner and catch my first glimpse of the sun for the morning.
As I paddle I watch the flecked greens, browns and pinks flash in the sunlight as trout catapult themselves from the water in pursuit of breakfast. A soft plop accompanies each attempt. The rock that lies bare at the border of the water is marbled with warm reds, oranges, blues and a brown black crusty lichen. The trees which grow from them are just beginning to change their colors for the season. The maples turn yellow first, something else sporadically blazes red among everything else still mostly green.
I round another corner and paddle into a cove somehow seemingly more quiet than the territory previously covered. The sun has now removed the cool damp nip the air has been hosting and it warms the skin of my shoulders and the black fur that covers my dog, so silently absorbing the world as it passes her.
From across the cove I hear an extraneous bleating accompanied by crackles in the woods only possibly made by something fairly heavy. With the sound, the forest purges itself of its entire avian population as ducks and herons and multiple other species unsighted until the moment stir and evacuate. I make a soft bleating sound back and my dog unleashes a single bark. A white head followed by four hooves pokes through the trees onto a rocky outcropping. It answers our calls with another almost panicked bleat. A goat. Or sheep, I am unsure of which. Trailing a frayed rope from its neck, looking and sounding incredibly lost, it scampers off as I approach.
This is the part where we swim, I say to Saia. In we go. As we tire ourselves of swimming, we lounge. She on a small beach and I face down, eyes closed on the hypnotizing rocking of my board.