Archive for July, 2009
Posted by Eve in Journal, tags: kayak, water
yesterday each of us took a turn on Lake Itasca in the new kayak: wow, a totally different experience than the recreational kayaks I’ve used in the past. sort of like how a powerful sportscar is different from my beloved father’s honda accord: it responds to every move you make, so you better decide the moves you want to make! the paddle is really great, too: light and sized for my hands. I’m amazed at how much easier it is to move through the water: ninety minutes of paddling felt nearly effortless and I’m not at all sore today. I paddled up to the actual headwaters and then drifted among the grasses and lilypads to see if I could feel a perceptible pull to transform lake into river. It’s a funny thing: Lake Itasca is just a northern lake like a thousand other northern lakes: for the duck family or the loon I passed as I paddled to the headwaters, this lake probably doesn’t seem charged in any particular way: but we have a whole story, we ALWAYS have stories, and I really enjoy picturing this circle of lake focussing into a line, a directed stream that will grow and amass into this incredible, powerful river. And I think of my friend RIck in Pittsburgh, and how “his” water will join this water here, and I realize it’s just simply impossible for humans NOT to lay our own narratives on nature. it’s just what we DO. to whatever degree I can, I will avoid sentimentalizing this journey, romanticizing it; but there’s absolutely nothing I can do to avoid humanizing it, and I wouldn’t want to if I could.
I have to tell you I was really moved by that loon. my mother joycie’s favorite bird. very very excellent to see her as I start out.
there was an article in the NYTimes the other day about hammocks as an alternative to tents, so at REI the other day, I picked up a “Brazilian” hammock with a mosquito cover, and I have been sleeping in it every night, with a tarp over the bottom half so I can look at the trees and stars when it’s clear but scrunch down a bit and get out of the rain whenever I need to without getting out and adjusting the tarp. It rains on and off all day and night here in Itasca: Mac pointed out that 20% precipitation means just that: not 20% chance of rain, but it’s gonna rain 20% of the time.
I LOVE this hammock and totally recommend it to any of you campers out there: forget the tent and the sleeping pads and all that! A little hammock that fits in a stuff sack the size of a softball along with a sleeping bag and a tarp for rain are all you need!
Watching the woman filling water jugs at the campsite this morning I couldn’t help but think of the thousands of years women have been carrying water. (why women, I wonder? water is seriously heavy!) but anyway, there she was like the model of the type, leaned over the source (a faucet, not a stream, but still), willowy, her hair shadowing her face, and the water so fresh and clean and new. she turned and I could see her, and she was younger than I had placed her, she had seemed so calm and implacable filling her jugs, I had figured her for a woman who had finished raising her children.
Because I have VT plates, people of course assume I am from VT. I have mixed feelings about this.
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I figure it’s useful to follow Mae West’s advice whenever possible, even when it’s applied to shopping, which is one of my least favorite activities and induces a kind of anxious narcolepsy in me, if such a thing is possible. “Outfitting” is just a fancy word for shopping, after all, and getting outfitted for a sport at which I have pretty minimal experience is a competition between salesmen who have comparatively expert knowledge and foolish me whose only advantage is that I simply don’t have the budget to do what they would bid me to do. $3000 kayaks, anyone?!?! I don’t think so! (it IS a very sexy machine, I can tell that even without knowing anything about it!)
The interesting thing about our endless shopping day yesterday is that we revised the plan somewhat, in a way that I think will alter the trip in a very rich and useful way.
The original plan had been that we would get a tandem kayak and on any given day, two people would be kayaking down the river while the third of us would drive down and meet us. That way we would have the support of a car, each person would have a day off the river once every three days and could scope out interesting off-river stuff, find groceries and water and internet, and carry all the camping gear and ancillary stuff so the kayak wouldn’t have to. The idea was to procure a tandem kayak that could be adjusted to serve as a solo kayak for times when there are only two travelers instead of three.
It turns out that an adjustable tandem kayak is not a good choice for a long touring journey. So we agreed that the better choice is to buy a solo kayak, and then on any given day, one person will be paddling, one will be biking, and the third will be driving. I am totally LOVING this revised plan, partially because it means that each of us will in fact be taking parallel SOLO journeys down the river, gathering after each day’s travels to compare notes and hang out together. In general, I think a solo journey is a much more interesting way to travel. In my experience, you’re just much more OUT there, and strangers interact with you much more freely, and in every way it’s really preferable. But doing a parallel solo journey WITH other people prevents the loneliness and extremity that would be sort of unavoidable if I did a four-month solo trip down the river.
So rather than feeling like we’ve compromised the plan by changing to a solo kayak, I’m really feeling excited about the new balance between alone and together we’ve created for the journey.
But we still have to go back and actually BUY everything today, and I wish that part could just magically be finished! Hopefully by the end of the day today!!!!
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Posted by Eve in Journal, tags: family, kayak, movie
we’ve arrived in Beulah, MI, where my aunt and cousins all gather every summer at the Red House. she took us out this morning to see the cherry trees get shaken by this big machine, and we took the opportunity to gather some leftovers. have any of you been to the fabulous Cherry Hut?!?
and of course I am thinking about Agnes Varda and her wonderful movie, The Gleaners and I. Have any of you seen her new one, The Beaches of Agnes?
Later in the day, Emma and Victoria took Mac and I out on Crystal Lake for a bit of kayaking and a swim. I was very aware of us doing this thing recreationally that will soon be our main form of transportation, a very cool shift.
okay, getting kicked out of the library, see you later…
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Posted by Eve in Journal, tags: journey, map
View Birch Hill to Bess in a larger map
I woke up this morning spontaneously at around 4 am: the combination of just getting back from Europe and real excitement about this river journey makes it really pretty impossible to sleep. Watching the dawn here on the land is always such a great pleasure: this morning the clouds and fog kept alternately shrouding and caressing and obscuring the mountains. I could happily sit and just watch the shifts not just at dawn, but all day long. But Mac and I got going taking down tents and packing up gear, and now we’re at the Brandon Library for a small internet fix before we head out for Rochester, where we’ll be staying with my friend Bess tonight.
I’m finding it harder to leave Brandon today than New York yesterday. It’s really just so beautiful here: I can’t imagine that any landscapes we’ll be seeing on the River will be any MORE excellent than this spot. (I’m giving a shout out to my friend Heather Hitchens, who found it for me on a gorgeous fall day in 2003; yo, Heather, THANK YOU!)
When I first got the idea of doing this trip, it was a solo journey, some sort of quest. I think it still is some sort of quest, but now it’s turning into a collaborative journey with a shifting cast of fellow travelers, which I’m really really happy about. The first fellow traveler is my man Mac, a trombone player and adventurer I met a couple of years ago doing a workshop for a dance piece with multiple trombones at Mass MOCA. We don’t know each other very well yet, but I bet we will in a few weeks!
And part of the reason I’m keeping this journal as a blog is to invite those of you who aren’t going to physically come to river to join a virtual trip with me. So I’m really eager to hear your comments and questions, and if you find I’m not telling you about stuff you want to know, or telling you too much about stuff you don’t care about, TALK TO ME!!! Let’s do this thing together!!
And although I didn’t plan for it to happen, I’m also really enjoying that we’re embarking on 22 July, which happens to be my birthday. There’s a Book of Days piece for 22 July, you can listen to it here if you like.
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Posted by Eve in Journal, tags: journey, map, water
View NYC to VT in a larger map
I’m leaving NYC for real this morning, heading up to my land in Vermont to meet up with Mac, pack up all the gear I can think of needing, and then start the car trip west to the headwaters of the Mississippi. Here we go!!! We’re not really ready: don’t even know what kayaks we’re using, but I’m trusting in the “just in time” approach to doing this journey. I keep reminding myself that we’re headed to a major city in the heartland of America, not some unpeopled outpost, so we can outfit ourselves as we go, which is better than lugging half the planet with us anyway!
My departure playlist for this trip is gonna be a mix my friend Cori the dramaturg put together for me as a parting gift: River music along with the rain coming down right now seems the exact right atmosphere for leaving on this trip. Normally I would be disappointed to do the VT drive in the rain, but for today it seems exactly right. I embrace the water.
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