Carpe now

Posted by Ken Campbell October 15, 2009 0 Comment 1015 views

My morning paddle ritual has been going through some changes. I used to spend the winter predawn hour kayaking across Commencement Bay and now it finds me on a paddleboard, gliding on the silky waters of the Foss, in downtown Tacoma. (I am sure the kayaking mornings are coming back soon… as the weather gets sportier, that bay crossing will become more entertaining. And, like anything else, a little variety once in a while is a good thing.)

The Foss Waterway is a reflecting pool at 5:00 this morning when I pull into Thea’s Park. A tug is on its way into the waterway, maneuvering a barge that is loaded with construction equipment and vehicles. I am on the water in minutes, following the tug as it wrestles the larger, heavier craft toward the dock, where two men stand waiting. I can see the deck hands on the tug move toward their stations as the dock gets closer. I stay on the far side, the city side, of the Foss, and I am past the tug and barge quickly, on up under the Morgan Bridge, to where the water is perfectly still.

In this hour before dawn, before the light starts to tickle the eastern skyline, when the moon is a sliver and the stars are shining brightly, this place has a certain magic. On mornings like this one, when the surface of the water acts like a mirror, doubling every light and softening every shadow, paddling under the Murray Morgan Bridge feels a lot like flying. The stars are reflected in the silent water, along with the lights from the nearby boats and the town itself. The reflection of the bridge is the most disorienting feature – it seems as though I am soaring above it, looking down on it rather than passing beneath it.

And that moon, that slit of silver rising in the east, seems to be getting the jump on the sun, at least for now. In a day or two it will disappear again, then start its cycle once more. How many times has it done this? Impossible to say. How many times have a tug and a barge done their delicate dance here, in what used to be known as Tacoma’s “City Waterway?” If it feels like I’m flying when I glide under the Morgan bridge and look down on the scenery below, who’s to say I’m not? Have others noticed this before me… are there others who have made this flight? There’s a lot I don’t know, and I am not sure it matters to anyone but me, but of this one thing I am sure: This is the only time it’s going to go down like this.

It’s hard to live in the moment. Life is such that many of us – most of us – are programmed to feel obligated to plan for the future, while at the same time, we seem somehow unable to avoid living in the past. To paddle an hour on the Foss before the sun comes up is to seize a moment, to get past the other stuff and claim the day.

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