~ Out of Nowhere ~
© Margaret Emerson
Published in Qi Journal, autumn 2007
Easy, unhurried ripples fan out from the bow as my kayak glides across the surface of the lagoon. I’ve spent a good portion of my life in water and I’m impressed with what an efficient swimmer a kayak is. Surely this rhythmic paddling is an example of what the Chinese call wu wei or effortless effort. Above me the sky is a vast blue with occasional streaks of white that make it all look as if it’s arcing toward the western horizon. There is almost no wind and I can hear the intermittent crash of waves beyond the spit. Following the scalloped shoreline in order to be close to the big firs and redwoods, I spook a great blue heron that takes off in front of me, pumping its wings in slow motion. I pass small flotillas of coots and ducks and the more cautious ones decide to leave. I laugh when I realize—for the first time—that the slapping noise is not the beating of their wings against the water but the rapid pushing of their webbed feet. For a few seconds they’re sprinting on water. Eventually I pull up in a small, secluded inlet to eat a sandwich and drink hot peppermint tea from my thermos. Bliss. It’s early February, yet northern California has given me the perfect day for kayaking. I do not want to go home.