I fell in love with being on the water when I was a kid. I grew up not too far from a lake and with a father who liked to go fishing.
I think the first time I went kayaking was probably at Girl Scout Camp; I don’t remember. What I do remember is that I got it into my head that I needed my own kayak.
They were too expensive for my parents to just go out and buy one on a little girl’s whim, but I didn’t give up. I got my first job at the local Dairy Queen when I was 14 so that I could have some extra spending money — and so that I could save up for a kayak.
The time came when I had saved up $400, the amount I figured I’d need for the first one. I knew it wouldn’t be anything fancy, but I was 14, so I didn’t care about that. I just wanted to get on the water. Kayaking felt natural to me.
I’m not entirely sure why, but my parents didn’t think that getting a kayak was a good idea. I don’t know if they just thought it was a silly phase or if they were worried about me or what. But they convinced me that a kayak wasn’t a good purchase — a nice leather jacket was a better investment.
We talked about it for what seemed like weeks and months. Eventually, I caved. I went to the store and picked out a fancy leather jacket and bought it. I brought it home. And I hated it. It smelled like…well…leather. And all I could think about is that I was wearing a dead cowhide on my back. It grossed me out, and I returned it.
I don’t know what happened to the money. I’m sure I spent it on something stupid with my friend, going to the movies or who knows what. All I know is that I never bought my kayak. But the dream didn’t die.
Andy and I went kayaking a few times together on some of our many adventures — through the mangroves, in the Caribbean, in the jungle. Each time we went, we rented them and talked about how much fun it was. And it always felt natural to me. I knew my dream of getting a kayak hadn’t gone away.
For my 29th birthday, when we were living in California, we got our first tandem kayak. We wanted to be able to go together, and we figured this was the best way.
I couldn’t complain. I finally had my kayak, and we went kayaking in the ocean many times.
But ocean kayaking is not the same, and although I absolutely loved it, I craved the peace I found with kayaking on calm waters.
When we moved back to Minnesota, we went kayaking a couple of times on the tandem, but I wanted to be able to go by myself. I still wanted my very own kayak.
I wasn’t actively searching for one when I found the perfect deal. It was just the right size, small enough that I could carry it on my own and it didn’t need to be licensed. And best of all, I could afford it.
I brought it home last summer. I was 32 years old when I finally got my own kayak, and my 14-year-old heart was fulfilled.
We sold our tandem, and I was sad to see it go. We had so many ocean memories — busting our way through the break to get to the calmer waters, rolling over gigantic waves, learning how to flip it and get back in it, and just being out in the big ocean in something so small.
I kayaked whenever I could last summer, letting my new vessel become an extended part of my body, rejoicing in the peacefulness of being out on the water. I preferred early morning kayaks, when I’d head out at sunrise and enjoy the water before going to work.
My heart ached a little as I packed it away for winter, but I knew I’d get out again in no time. This winter was very mild and much shorter than most. It was beautiful. And I definitely wished it wouldn’t end.
But while I hate mud season (spring), I started getting excited for another season: kayak season.
We’ve been keeping a close eye on the lake, and as soon as it seemed like there was enough open water to go, we dug out the kayaks and got to it. We tied a rope at the end of the stairs to help us in and out of the water, since the dock isn’t in yet.
Yesterday was our first day out there, and it was simply perfect.
And though I was incredibly sore today from all that we did yesterday, I couldn’t resist the sun and water. I had to get out there once again, for you see, there are a limited number of days before that extension of my body has to go back into storage again.
Who can resist the calm waters, eagles flying overhead, and peaceful movements of water lapping beneath you as you paddle around the lake?