Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Early Morning Revelations

I present to you, the third place winning essay of the 2011 Bo Carter Memorial Writing Contest.

Early Morning Revelations
by D.L. Marriott

I dip my foot into the water. I expect it to be chilly this early in the morning. I'm surprised by its warmth. I turn the canoe over, put a book encased in a plastic zip-top bag, a travel mug full of coffee, and a life-preserver in the bottom. I paddle my way through the channel and onto the lake. The sun has just begun its rise over the horizon. The sky is painted with hues of pink and orange. There is no one else out here. I expected to run into a fisherman or two, it seems impossible that this morning they are absent.

Once I'm in a place where I have the most room to drift, I slide down into the bottom of the canoe, and take out my book. There is nothing to interrupt me from my story. There is a highway not too far away, but at five A.M. on a Sunday morning there is little traffic. The muffled sound of the occasional car only barely gets my notice.

But then I hear a rumble that gets louder and louder, disturbing my peace. It's a train on a not too distant set of tracks. On such a quiet morning, its clattering is intrusive, disturbing. I stop reading and cringe at how it dispels my ideal of relaxing, drifting aimlessly on the water. Before long the rumbling fades away; my solitude returns.

Now that my attention has been torn away from the book in my hand, I take notice of what's around me. The lake is still, not a ripple on it other than those created by a family of ducks swimming by. My ears pick up the serenade of frogs, early morning birds, and the occasional splash of a jumping fish. There is a heron standing on the shore. His profile is majestic. At first he is so still that I'm not sure if he is real or a garden ornament. Just when I have convinced myself he cannot be real, he moves his head, turning it towards me.

I start thinking about how I would have missed him had the train not caused me to look up from my book. How sometimes we don't realize what's around us because we're too busy doing something else. How much sitting in this boat, floating along, is so much like life.

It starts out with the trip up the channel. Paddling is work. It's not horrible work. In a way, I enjoyed the challenge of working to get where I wanted to go. It's very much like when we were young, working hard to raise a family. It was work, sometimes hard work. But we were heading in the direction we wanted to go. It didn't all go smoothly. We occasionally had to shake the weeds from our paddles.

But then as our children grew up, we got to a place where we thought we could relax and enjoy life. Drift along, instead of working so hard. We thought we were coming to our perfect destination. We knew and accepted the mild disturbance of the car whizzing by, but it was so fleeting it barely registered. It isn't until something really shatters our silence that we take notice. Something big and intrusive like a freight train comes barreling into our world. Momentarily we wonder why. Why, when we finally have what we were dreaming of, does something big and ugly have to ruin it?

Like the train that disrupts my peaceful morning in my canoe, the things that disrupt our lives eventually pass. They rumble off into the distance. In their wake, we realize that there was beauty and peace all around us. It had been there all along, but we had been too preoccupied to appreciate it. Now in the deafening silence of the train's absence, it is wondrous. It's a lesson in appreciating all we have and realizing that bad things will come along, but they will pass, and we will still be here drifting on an unseen current. If by chance we are not happy with where the current is taking us, all we have to do is work up some muscle and paddle in another direction, and remember to take stock in the beauty around us. 

We can't banish the weeds, the cars and the freight trains of life. We can just close our eyes and wait for them to pass, then keep on paddling to our destination, never forgetting that there are always ducks and frogs, sunrises and herons, if we just take the time to recognize them.


Dave Thome said...

Nice writing. Congratulations.

D. L. Marriott said...

Thanks so much Dave! Good thing I also took a notebook and pen along in that canoe!

lleiser said...

You are amazing. Because I "know" you, I think I know the depth of this piece. Blessings.

D. L. Marriott said...

Thank-you Laurie. One of the judges wrote the comment that he kept waiting for me to reveal the "big ugly" thing that happened in my life, but I purposely left it out so that any reader could identify. In the end they thought it was stronger that way and so did I which is why I did it that way.