How do you capture a perfect day?
With no camera. No phone. Just your presence.
It was a perfect day!
Imagine: The wind, gently moving us along. The sun shining brightly at a mellow temperature in the lower 80’s with no humidity. The company…many adventurers on canoes, a kayak, and a paddle-board. And did I mention camera people?
A good two winters in the making, this adventure was finally coming to fruition. In summer.
Two years ago I answered a call for artists to participate in a program called “Off 90” that was based out of KSMQ. The station of my alma mater: Riverland Community College in Austin, MN, of which I attended radio and television broadcasting classes, back in 1979 to early 1980.
Flash forward to the call. As an artist, there are opportunities to cross over the arts world into other life experiences that might and commonly do, influence our work.
“The call” was a bridging opportunity. To be out in nature via adventurous activities in the ‘great outdoors’ of Southern Minnesota and engaging with artists of what inspires them to create what they do.
The goal was originally to go to Minneopa State Park and take in the winter wonderland on snowshoes – which was dashed – twice. Once in the winter of 2017, when there just was not enough snow! After multiple attempts in the winter of 2018-19, when there was “too much snow”, “not enough snow” “it’s below zero – too cold”, and of course, “too many blizzards” and getting crew, artist, DNR tour guides, and interviewer all on the same dates, they decided to take a different approach.
“Do you like canoeing?”
And…thus developed “The Perfect Day!”.
Because I was one of the interviewee’s I didn’t feel it would be a good idea to bring my own equipment: ie: Phone/camera, to capture study images for future carvings.
Now, after the fact, I am at the mercy of the crew at hand. Note to camera crew – Please send me some photos to work with! Thank you!
Before launching, the tour guide introduced us to a few of the ins-and-outs of canoeing on the river, how to navigate the rapids, (look for the “V”) and, how to work as a duo. Lesson #1 – I am in the front – and I am NOT the person steering! (Hahaha….all of these years of canoeing and I am relearning how to canoe!)
I was in heaven. As in heaven – with the exception of; a Go-Pro mounted to the front of our canoe, facing me; a microphone attached to the left side of my flotation device; another microphone attached to the collar of my shirt on the right side; and….four outside camera’s…focusing on me.
They came to capture the awe, the excitement, the exhilaration, the anticipation – all of it – while on the Blue Earth River. A nature meets the arts experience. Recorded forever will be my paddling abilities (and lack thereof), the expressions on my face at seeing Devil’s Gulch for the first time, of taking in the beauty of a hidden waterfalls three levels high, and of spreading Blue Earth clay onto my face in a ritual of existence. And….hitting a rapids for the first time in my life! (No retakes necessary on that part – as there were at least five sets of rapids!)
And it was still – heaven.
How can I capture into words the finite, soft and velvety texture on the backside of a maple leaf setting on the grainy beach in a hidden cavern? Just waiting for me to pick it up and discover this tactile joy that I had never felt before. Knowing it was not the ‘Silver Maple’ type of leaf I had lived with as a child. Or tracing my fingers along a silky smooth aqua-colored blood line that ebbs and flows between ancient stone plates, allowing for it to move and shift without which it would not survive – but crumble into fragments. These fine creamy veins were not unlike the clay I use every day, except that it contained a spirit of sacred holiness known to the Native American’s. My clay creations are sacred as well, for the spirit that I bring to them. Humbly, this vein gave spirit and sacredness, as a gift, to me.
Traversing down the river, heading north, on the Blue Earth River, was a new experience for me. I have never been on a river, in a floating apparatus. Period. I have been in a canoe many times, as I shared with the coordinator of the event – but – only on a small lake, with no turbulence. This knowledge of what was to come, caused me to beg for some other mode than a tandem kayak. Like a canoe maybe? For two?
Ahead were rapids. Nothing major. Of course. But remembering the waiver I signed before I set foot into the canoe did remind me that the river is one thing. Rapids are another. Especially when new to the experience and with anxiety of flipping a kayak with someone you are not decades-comfortable with enough – able to respond in unspoken syncronicity…yes, thank you for the canoe!
The apparatus at the helm captured all of the expressions on our faces, I am sure of it. Including the ‘somewhat mild’ timidity of the approaching rapids, or the subtle frustration of no control as the swiftly flowing current took us past the flotilla – to the banks – again – even though we were paddling our little hearts out to join them.
What could not be expressed enough though – was the awe and beauty discovered within what could be called a blind date with the cavernous entryways. Vibrant green lichen and fungi, akin to layering tendrils and sequins, draping over the curves of limestone, like a sultry velvet dress. The atmosphere, a cool mist descending upon the entrant. The jewels for the event were delicate fronds, standing with frail eagerness to be noticed at the foot of the doorway. “Notice me! Notice me!” Ahhhh, yes. I noticed! You are beautiful!
The perfect day! It continued. Another set of rapids, another sigh of accomplishment, followed by a lazy rambling through the winding fluid veins of living and breathing water. I am being converted. I am in love. Not so much with the rapids. But the river. Teaming with my life blood. Flowing. Pulsing. Acutely aware of the life-giving flow of water!
Why am I here? To be infused with inspiration. Oh. I am!
“Just look at the texture on the river.” My brain is sending me cues. “See the softly flowing patterns that merge with the dancing undercurrent from the rocks and boulders just under the surface?”
Oh I wish I had my camera. But would that be an adequate capture of it all? I think not. I know – not.
It is a matter of impression in the clay. When I get back home I will have much to contemplate.
There is a sacredness about this voyage. It is ephemeral. Without witnessing talismans or sacred trinkets. It just is in being present. It can not be caught on camera. It can not be said without feeling a sense triviality. It just….is. How spiritual are these gifts of this Blue Earth River. As sacred as the Holy Trinity, a trilogy, or a family, around the next bend, this place of sacred gathering. We land, for feasting and connection. As we enter, we wash our Blue Earth markings from our faces in ritual, the sun glistening in from among the overstory. The thundering voice is a spectacular, joyous, and powerful one. It is heard! Waterfalls. Three layers. One flowing into another. Magnifying, joining in, to a family of many.
Oh how the young tree roots that surround the cavern of water interlocked its fingers, sprawling, crawling their way down the steep banks to touch the cool blue earth water. Braidings. Another inspiration.
This. This is where I encounter my talismans. The velvety-smooth maple leaf. The young cottonwood leaf. And the thick oyster colored shell, washed against the rocks from unknown millennium. And the markings? A gray rock brings full-circle our travels to the Petroglyphs in western Minnesota only weeks ago. They too. Sacred. I spot the markings and share them with the outfitter. Three engraved lines. Do they signify the historic sacredness of this spot? We shall never know. But I do. I know within the veins of this body of water. That this place. Is sacred.
As I reflect back on this perfect day, one thing comes to mind. How much I love snowshoeing. And how the spirits that be, guided me to uncover (or rediscover?) yet another love that runs deep in my veins.
As I write this, I am learning the many terms I should have known before the trip. But hey, I won’t obsess about it – until next time!
TROUGH. The low point between two waves.
YAW. A time when the canoe swerves off course.
TONGUE. The “V” (that smooth water) between rippled water that says “Take this route” for safe passage.
PUT-IN. The place the canoe is ‘put-in’ to the water; as in the launching location or the place where the trip begins.
TAKE-OUT. Where your trip ends; the place where the canoe is taken out.
What does “The latest reading from the DNR is 5.61 ft. mean?” A PERFECT DAY!
A special Thank you goes out to Stephanie Passingham and crew from KSMQ, Brenda Piekarski from Twelve Plus Media, Dain (Rapid Rick), Swamp, Hawk, and Fast Jack from Bent River Outfitters, for making this girls adventures something awesome and inspiring. And to Franz. For taking the lead!