As the height of the noontime sun gradually decreases with each passing day, the duration of solar exposure follows suit. The seemingly endless twilight of a northern summer is slowly nudged away by the crisp and cool breezes of the reliable autumn. The changing seasons accordingly become a common thread that ties together the sporadic and at times random thoughts which permeate my mind. Their indicative signal is heard and echoed, in part as a warning for what is impending but also as a testament to the rhythmic and cyclical nature of life. Like the waves lapping upon the rocky beaches of some uncharted island, the beat persists whether or not it is noticed and appreciated by a conscious soul.
From the battered steps that transcend the boundary from land to water I rest and compose my memories. The experiences recalled and recorded are similarly transcendent, putting the grander scheme into perspective and making insignificant concerns and resentments melt away like grains of sand being carried out to sea by the lulling tides. What we choose to hold close is our choice alone; that which we cast away can be gathered together for callous efficiency or carefully dispersed bit by bit. With time, I have recognized my own shifts in methodology, erroring on the side of caution rather than risking the loss of something significant due to the hasty and less thoughtful departures I favored in my youth.
Now my recollections can be earned and learned, like a peace that has yet to be fully realized. The distant sailboats tacking on a placid afternoon breeze still make progress toward their final destination no matter how indirect their route may be. Great oak and evergreen trees are subject to the same erosive forces that batter boulders into pebbles, and even with impossibly deep roots, they too will someday submit to the perils of gravity. The fragility of life is occasionally contemplated with reserved optimism, hoping that by the time my fate is realized I will have my bags packed and loose ends tied. The uncertainty makes known the dynamic reality of excitement and risk that each moment offers.
The islands have the ability to heal wounds that only exist on the inside. These invisible injuries persist, often unnoticed, and their presence can have a profound impact on the way we view the world. When the fluid lake medicine penetrates unseen ailments and cleanses the soul, there is no better time to reset ambitions and make adjustments to our navigational direction through life. With every passing day and setting sun, our path can be chosen with purpose and intent...or it can be stumbled upon randomly guided by the prevailing wind direction and terrain aspect. In my experience, a healthy mix of wandering and orienteering tend to lead to the most memorable destinations.
My final trip of the summer was spent island camping for three nights with a wonderful group of interesting folks from all walks of life. It was extremely rewarding to share the splendor of the Isles of Sand and Oak with such a helpful and appreciative group. It was amazing to witness the way that the sacred waters of Superior can transform, heal, unite, and pacify. I could not have asked for a better way to end a great season of kayaking and exit the Islands that I already miss. With each end comes a beginning; now I start an epic journey down the famous river that bisects the Midwestern United States. From the Lake Itasca headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico, it is time to follow the waters of the Mississippi and see what indications of the Anthropocene are encountered.