Last year we took the plunge and bought kayaks. It was something that we had been thinking about for years and finally brought to fruition. We saw those kayaks as a means to not only get some exercise but also to spend time as a family and connect with nature. It turned out to be a great decision. With each kayaking adventure under our belts, we grew more comfortable and were able to immerse ourselves deeper into the tranquility of nature. There is something innately peaceful about gliding across a quiet lake, hearing nothing but the sound of the birds singing, turtles slipping into the water from their basking spots, and your paddle dipping into the water below.
One of my favorite kayak adventures last summer was to a small, secluded lake near our home. All the stars somehow aligned that day to create the most magical, memorable trip. Arriving early in the morning to beat the heat, we noticed that we were the only people there. It was just us and nature, in my mind, the best possible scenario. We quickly unloaded our kayaks and slid them into the water, anxious to take advantage of this rare opportunity. As we slowly made our way around the first bend, I came upon a magnificent site, hundreds of lily pads adorned with creamy white and yellow water lilies. Their beauty took my breath away, and I instantly understood why they were often the subject of French Impressionist painter Claude Monet’s paintings.
I had marveled at these alluring blooms from afar, on many occasions, but now, nestled in my kayak, I was able to admire these beauties up close for the first time. How foreign they seemed, almost otherworldly, with their adaptations to thrive in an aquatic environment. Waxy petals, spongy pads, and stems similar to snorkels are just a few of the characteristics that help them succeed. The flowers themselves appear quite exotic, tropical in resemblance. How exciting to see such blooms here in Zone 5! I’ve since discovered that hardy types can grow in Zones 3-11 and tropical types in Zones 9-11. Fascinating flora, the tropical Victorian types can produce pads reaching an impressive 10 feet across.
Seeing these magnificent blooms up close was magical. From this vantage point, I was able to appreciate their true beauty. The flowers themselves looked dressed for a fancy dinner party, clothed in their white and yellow gowns, dancing upon a floor of green. Their dance partners the many frogs and turtles that had also arrived at the party. Perhaps Prince Charming was among them. I felt like Cinderella at the ball, catching a glimpse into a magical world that I wished to be part of, feeling like perhaps I didn’t belong, but honored to receive the invitation. I could have stayed there for hours, but just like Cinderella, at a certain point, I knew my time was up, and I moved on, leaving the frogs and water lilies to continue their dance.
Their music followed me as I paddled, the birds singing their melodies, the dragonflies zipping to and fro, occasionally landing on my kayak to say hello, and the turtles, oh the incredible turtles. There were dozens of Painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) basking in the morning sun on rocks and logs near the shore. Sliding silently or belly-flopping into the water anytime our kayaks came too close. Their painted shells, streaked in red, green, and yellow, glinted in the sun’s morning rays. Occasionally, as I paddled by, I would see a curious fellow peering out of the water, slipping quickly back into the depths below when he realized I had noticed him staring. It was a treat to see these fantastic creatures in their natural habitat.
Sadly, our adventure eventually came to an end, and it was time to say goodbye to this magical wonderland. For a few enchanting hours, I was fully immersed in nature, an unexpected guest at the dinner party. Perhaps, if I’m lucky, the stars will align again when I revisit this special place in the future. I’m hopeful that I left behind a glass slipper so that this fantastical world can find me still.