Archive for Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pet Talk: Boating excursion great getaway

October 18, 2007

I think every one of you would agree we live in a highly stressful, go here, go there, do this, do that, society that always wants us to be politically correct. It even is becoming a bit troublesome to carve out time for family and friends, much less some quiet time for yourself. And I mean the real kind of quiet time that comes from putting away the laptop and turning off your iPod and television.

Well, I chiseled out a small portion of my earthly existence last Sunday afternoon and I am still reveling in it. And you know what? I found plenty of animals there, too -- the wild kind.

Last Tuesday, I picked up the phone in the back of the shop and instantly recognized the nasally, high-pitched voice of my nephew, Kurt. He has a city job in downtown Kansas City, managing big heaps of money for other people. He reads about a dozen papers, including The Wall Street Journal, by 8 a.m., so I was certainly amazed that he had carved out the time to even call me.

"Hey, Matt. Do you remember that conversation we had about going canoeing last spring, but we never did? Well, what are you doing this weekend?"

"Kurt, call me back on Thursday, and maybe by then I'll better know what's in store for the weekend," I said.

I was guilty of trying to put it off. But I knew that we both needed a big break, even if only for a few hours.

Kurt called back late Thursday night and we set a date for Sunday afternoon at the boat ramp on the Wakarusa River just north of Eudora. Kurt also said that he was bringing along his son, Auden, who is all of 8 or 9 years old.

I started getting psyched up after getting off the phone.

It had been too long since I got the old canoe down from its resting place atop our dog run. My dogs were even looking at me strangely when I went to get it down. It was as though I had invaded their privacy and took away their shade.

On Sunday, after church and lunch with the girls, I got all my gear together, strapped the canoe in the back of my old truck and off I went to the river. Man, did it feel good. The freedom of adventure that enveloped me was chilling. I rolled down the windows and a light rain threatened to dampen my escape, but I told myself that I couldn't let it get to me.

When I pulled into the parking lot at the ramp, I could see Kurt and his son were readying their boat for the water. I quickly unloaded my boat, brought it down to the stream and we shoved off.

The light rain intensified a bit and then tapered off. It seemed as though God had planned the shower to clean up the view of his creation for our adventure.

Immediately, we spotted a kingfisher skimming just inches above the water before he swooped upward to perch on a silver maple limb outstretched over the tributary to the mighty Kansas River.

Overhead, birds lazily soared on the wind, unhindered by our presence. A couple of squirrels scampered up the bank, seemingly playing a game of tag. We also caught a glimpse of a red-tailed hawk just as we rounded our way into the mouth of the Kansas River.

We surveyed the distance across to the shoreline and took in the strength of the current. We made a beeline upstream, struggling against the current and eventually landing on the opposite shore. The only sounds that could be heard were the pitter-patter of occasional raindrops against our canoes, the wind and water rushing by our crafts and the overhead conversations of the birds.

Once on the sandbar, we took time to hunt for fossils and artifacts. We were pleasantly surprised at what we found and loaded up Auden's pockets for show-and-tell. I spied a unique piece of driftwood and carried it back to the canoe to be deposited in my yard as a memory of this great day.

This overcast, somewhat dreary day had turned out more pleasant than any great day of work.

As we shoved off and headed back to the Wakarusa, I could see fish jumping and skimming to the top of the muddy river surface. Somehow, I felt as alive as the fish, skimming along in my canoe, paddle in hand and my worries and cares left back on shore somewhere.

All around us was the beauty of flora and fauna, befitting of a Creator so kind to leave us such a playground to which we can escape to find respite. This day was just what the doctor ordered.

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