Monday, August 07, 2006


Dock envy

It's a civic holiday here, and I had assumed my gym would be open as usual, but it opened an hour later than usual, about 45 minutes after I arrived. Not wanting to miss my opportunity, I decided to go for a run instead (I'm really not so fond of running) and thought that since I was already in the car, I'd choose some new scenery to pound and sweat through.

There's a little conservation area just a few clicks from my house, and with its winding paths and boardwalks through the marshes, it seemed like a lovely choice. What I had forgotten was the little canoe dock that appends one end of the path. It's small, just five by ten or so, and just out of the way enough that you might overlook it if you weren't paying attention.

I went for my hobbling, ungraceful run - why is it that other runners always look so lithe and athletic when they run and I look like a herd of lumbering three-legged cattle? - and stopped to stretch and catch my breath on the peaceful little dock.

It was probably the 30 most peaceful moments of my whole summer vacation. The Rideau is a busy river, but only two boats rippled the tranquil surface while I was there. I watched an elderly gentleman quietly fishing off his own dock a half mile or so down and across the river, but other than that, even the animals and insects were at rest. The breeze was gently soothing, and in the early haze of a day that promises to swelter, the air was pregnant with possibility. Nothing has yet been committed this early, and the day had not yet coalesced into the vivid colours and harsh shadows that will define the midmorning and afternoon.

I have a serious case of dock envy. I realized that when I was riding about in the little aluminum fishing boat of my father- and mother-in-law last weekend. Sure, it would be nice to have a cottage on a lake somewhere, but I don't need that much. All I really want is a dock, somewhere I can plant my chair and sip my coffee in the morning, or my frosty, sweating beer in the lazy heat of a summer afternoon, and hear the waves gently patting the moorings.

It hasn't been the best summer vacation ever this year. Too much drama, too much anxiety, too much barf and poop, thanks to the stomach virus that Simon has been battling for the past seven days (it was so bad on Friday that I was afraid we'd have to bring him in to the ER for dehydration, but he's better now.) That's not to say there haven't been high points, and fun days, and lots of things that I enjoyed - but emotionally, the past two weeks have been too erratic for me to look back at them with any collective fondness.

But on this little dock, with the breeze tickling errant strands of hair across my cheeks, it seemed I could get my feet solidly under me again. I tried to inhale the calm, to charge up my heart, my brain, my cells with the sweetness of promise, of possibility, of hazy blue calm and scudding clouds and lapping waves. I tried to remember that each day starts with this quiet promise, this possiblity, this gentle calm - sometimes you just have to move yourself off your beaten path to find it.