Monday, September 24, 2012

Boundary Waters

The following was a paper I wrote for class on my Boundary Waters expedition two years ago...

I stood on the threshold of two worlds.  The flickering glow of the campfire competed with the unfolding blanket of the night sky while its smoke hung in banks and wisped over the water.  The moon appeared with an orange glow as it rose. Speckles of stars seemed almost within reach, when to my dismay I found what I was longing to escape from—civilization. Two blinking satellites disrupted the heavenly mood I had come to find. In today’s postmodern society some find solace in the technological advances of the newest video game, finest cell phone or top edition of the I-pod. Indeed the world is fast advancing and we are mere disciples who forget that the best things in life are those unseen or unheard. My story is that of the latter.  In a place with busy lives, the Boundary Waters is the place to find peace and quiet in a world so disrupted.
I paddle for an hour twisting through a lush swale of wetland spotting ducks, loons, a couple of beaver lodges, and even a bald eagle. The russet of the whispering sedge takes on a metallic sheen andwhite lilies on green pads dot the waterway. The riverbed troll hair is thick, and the current pulls it downstream.  My shoulders are tight and there is a burn in my neck, but this stretch of water refreshes my body and spirit. I leave the past in swirls of blue and gain memories of a world unfamiliar with time.  
We arrive at camp and build a fire.  As the group reminisces about the day I stare into the flames thinking of nothing and everything. 

“Kristi?” my friend Bridget yells, “Would you like some Gorp?” 
“No thanks I’m good.”
“Do you want to go explore and find the ladies room?”

Walking beyond the edge of our campsite, we search for the perfect rock to claim as the ladies room. Distant voices drift from the campsite but we hike away from them and pursue a low rumble. A few hundred yards later a waterfall is revealed. Bridget and I stand facing the glimmering yellow cast of the setting sun and watch until the last vestige of the glowing beam, disappears from the surface of the water. A bald eagle crosses above. So frequently spotted here they border on common, but to me the eagle's simple beauty elicits silent awe. I want to capture the moment and never leave but the return to camp is necessary.
Back at camp and the boys are found with no measureable catch, so we subsist on granola bars and Gorp. A partial moon appears above, casting a long v-shaped shadow on the lake’s surface. One by one the group leaves the fire and retreats to the comfort of a sleeping bag. I decide to stay up, on a rock by the water, listening to the waves lapping upon the shoreline. Looking, listing, waiting; unworldly voices whisper in the mist speaking of those who had passed this way before and those who may come later. I say a prayer “May the good company of my friends always last and may we always remember one other when we end up worlds apart”. The solitude of the moment rejuvenates my spirit. I am alone but not lonely. Is there something wrong with me that I don't technology? I gaze to the stars considering this and other questions, residing on the fact that I am seeing, experiencing, and feeling the world with fresh humility and honesty. I am immersed in the present, which requires my full attention. After a long silence I decide to retreat to the solitude of my tent, coil into my sleeping bag and drift to sleep to the song of frog and Loon.
I open my eyes in the morning, but remain motionless, taking in the smells and sounds of the wilderness. The frequent splash of fish jumping near the shore, the echo of Loons, and the distant purr of water cascading from the waterfall leaves me in astonishment. It’s surprising how one can go from dense population to deep wilderness in just a few hours. Departing from my tent, a show of pink and purple hues welcomes me to a new day. Today will be another great day to return to silent paddling in the unspoiled landscape of the Boundary Waters.

So much I now understand after seeing the best of both worlds. The escape from civilization proved that while being lulled to sleep by one’s I-pod melody is good, silence in an unhurried atmosphere is better.  We have lost so much by becoming accustomed to wireless connections, instant meals and fast paced transportation. If the world could learn to sit back and watch life from the unhurried pace of a canoe, perhaps we could realize all we have been missing for so long…the unseen beauty that comes without the need of flashy lights or bold sound, the beauty that God placed here naturally for all to enjoy, the beauty of silence.