Richard Cabe inflating our brand-new kayak at Frantz Lake, September 2009.

Time Off

Richard Cabe inflating our brand-new kayak at Frantz Lake, September 2009. Richard Cabe inflating our brand-new kayak at Frantz Lake, September 2009.

My youngest niece, nineteen-year-old Alice, is visiting for a while in her time off between summer job and college. She’s been helping me weed and pack. Today I promised her time off.

We hefted the bulky duffel containing my inflatable double-kayak into the back of the Subaru, added paddles, PFDs (high-tech life-jackets), and the foot-powered pump, and headed for nearby Frantz Lake to play around.

I haven’t used the kayak since my late love and I took it for its inaugural paddle four years ago on my birthday.  He had just been released from his first-ever stay in the hospital after seeing birds that didn’t exist.

Although I insisted that bringing him home was the only present I needed, he bought me the kayak I’d been lusting after. On the afternoon of my birthday, we took it over to the nearby lake and had a grand time learning its rhythms.

Alice and I set out for that same lake, and in fact, pushed off from the very same beach.

Alice Tweit ready to hit the water at Frantz Lake. Alice Tweit ready to hit the water at Frantz Lake.

First though, we figured out how to inflate the kayak: “After turning the valve counter-clockwise to lock open, partially inflate Chamber 1. Then inflate Chamber 2 until firm….” And then we carried it down to the water.

Alice snapped together the poles and posed for a photo, and we both donned our PFDs.

She got in the bow, I pushed off and slid into the stern, and we paddled away. It was perfect weather–not too hot, not too windy. We paddled across the arm of the lake, practiced turning, backing and paddling cross-wind. Once we had our rhythm, we circled the little island, paddled around the east arm, and stopped at a beach to wade and hang out.

A paddler with the muscle tone of a wildland firefighter, Alice's job last summer. Alice paddling

By the time we paddled back to where we started, we had that glow of having exercised enough to feel slightly tired and quite righteous.

We deflated the boat, not nearly as rigorous an operation as inflating it, and then folded it, wrestled it into the huge duffel, and carted it back to the car.

After a side-trip up Ute Trail in the Arkansas Hills east of town to check out the trail head where I’ll drop her tomorrow morning for a hike, we headed home. And hauled the kayak up onto the back porch to dry, where it looks rather like a bright orange beached whale.

I have been so focused on finishing this place, getting it on the market, and overseeing construction of the new house that I haven’t given myself time off to play in, well, months. The hour on the lake today with Alice reminded me that I need that time.

The deflated kayak, drying on the back porch. The deflated kayak drying on the back porch.

Especially now. The imminent sale of Terraphilia, my house/guest cottage/historic shop building hit a serious snag late last week. It’s not clear what it means, but it’s not good.

I learned the news late Friday afternoon and spent a few hours awake and worrying that night. Summer is the prime selling season here. I’m borrowing money from my dad to build Creek House, and I can’t pay him back unless the place sells. If this contract falls through….

At two-thirty this morning, I realized that my fears are just that, fears. I had a plan and life isn’t following that plan. Surprise, surprise.

We plan, we hope, and in the end, we work with what comes along. Flexibility is strength. As is remaining patient, keeping our hearts open, and acting from our best selves, with love and faith.

Didn’t I learn that lesson thoroughly in the two-plus years Richard and I walked the journey with his brain cancer? Or as Mom’s life faded? Or after deciding to sell this home my love built for us, and realizing that meant I’d have to learn to do the finish carpentry myself?

Silliness with an iPhone. Silliness with an iPhone.

Apparently I still need practice. Cultivate patience. Live with my heart outstretched. Cultivate patience. Live with my heart outstretched….

And take time off to have fun.