Last night as the sky darkened, the lake was as calm as a northern pond on a windless day. Before climbing into our tent and zipping our sleeping bags against the chill, we had stared out over the glassy sheet for as far as we could see—until water met sky.
This morning as amber light filters into our tent, I watch my nine-year-old open his eyes, yawn and stretch. In the fall, the sun takes its time in the journey from lake to sky, so we have time to heat water on our camp stove—for my coffee and his chamomile tea—before making our way down to the rocky shore.
The morning’s breeze makes for small waves that break against the rocky outcroppings protecting our alcove. And there we sit, side by side, on a cool, flat boulder, wordlessly looking outward together at the expanse of water before us, the water reflecting the sky’s shades of red, orange, yellow, and pink. Cairns, made from small, flat beach rocks rise up beside us, defiant in their refusal to topple despite fragility. We hear a gentle clatter of birch leaves at our backs and sea gulls caw as they survey, swoop, and dive.
The air is cold, and breath leaves our bodies in puffs of white, my lungs producing larger but less frequent plumes than my son’s. I am transfixed by the power of water, how even the gentlest of waves displaces hundreds of rocks as it approaches, and takes them rumbling away as the wave recedes. Occasionally, a swell collides with a nearby rock and we feel a light spray of cold water on our faces and hands – the only exposed skin on this brisk morning. I cradle a speckled blue metal cup in my hands, much like my son holds his red speckled cup, willing the warmth from the coffee to spread.
I inhale, pause, and then exhale a deep content sigh. I resist the urge to speak, to ask what’s next, and try to stay present in this moment.