This evening my eldest kid and I spent sunset floating on Lake Eligo, a narrow two-mile-long lake near our farm. While his sisters are aquatically-inclined, and love jumping into Eligo even when its waters are unreasonably cold, Jason (and me, for that matter) prefer staying dry. Canoeing suits us both, we’ve found.
Jason’s old enough to run a paddle, up there in the bow. He’s not old enough to help hoist the 80+ pounds of 16′ canoe to the cartop rack. He’s old enough to find humor in my efforts. He’s not old enough for me to object to his commentary. We get along just fine.
He’ll be twelve soon. He was born on the same day as his maternal great-grandfather, whom he reminds me of in this picture. Maybe it’s the glasses.
This is his second canoe experience, and the first time he’s had to paddle for real. We took it easy, noodling around the still water from one end of the lake to the other, looking at lots of stuff along the way.
Eligo is a glacier-formed basin, a narrow scrape in the bedrock. In some places along the eastern shore, the slope is precipitous.
When the lake is icebound, hungry deer walk along the fringe and browse the cedars and other softwood trees there. The summertime result: a neatly trimmed hedge effect, exactly one deer’s-reach above the waterline. Or one moose-reach, if they get there first.
Water seems thin and undependable, until you watch the waterbugs making dents in it. Their skinny skimmy legs are so frail-looking, yet they confidently skate around making miniature echoes of our big canoe’s wake.
When we made it to the southern end and turned around, we saw the western shore was shady already, while the eastern shore still caught the setting sun. This is my child for sure: he reasoned that somewhere in the middle of the lake, there would be a line between shade and sun. “Can we follow it?” he asked. “Let’s go find it,” I told him. He kept watch of the prow of the gunwale to track whether it were in the dark or the light, and by his navigation we paddled the lightline as long as we could.
The northern view from Eligo looks upon the ridgeline of the Lowell Mountains. Presently there is a proposed industrial wind project that would spike giant windmills along that ridge. There is also an opposition movement. I like that. It seems balanced, and I believe tension is a sign of vitality. Multiple viewpoints mean people are thinking from different perspectives. Different perspectives, like the bits of a hologram, add dimension to otherwise narrow and flat life. Kind of like ripples on water, come to think.
Water is amazingly sculptable stuff, but you have to watch fast. Jason experimented with whirlpools and drippings from his paddle, after practicing steering the canoe by pushing or pulling against the water.
The northern end of the lake is the outlet end, shallower and full of emergent vegetation. Not far from these lily pads, I saw a plume of mud and bubbles which turned out to be a snapping turtle moving along the lake bottom. I was thrilled–usually I only see them crossing the road.
Further along, we came to the littoral zone, where land plants and water plants peaceably coexist. We recognized things generally as willows, cattails, sedges, and ferns…but agreed we need to invest in a field guide soon.
Red-winged blackbirds are ubiquitous in wetlands around here. They perfectly demonstrate how a little color classes up an otherwise boring aspect. Blackbirds aren’t iridescent, the way starlings or martins are. They aren’t strikingly sized, like a raven or a crow. They’re just middle-sized dusty black birds–until you add those yellow-and-red bars. Their distinctive call note helps, too.
Eventually we ran out of lake. On the other side of this culvert, the north-flowing Black River begins its thirty-mile wend to Lake Memphremagog and the Canadian border. We did discuss flattening ourselves and going through the chute, but only in a theoretical way.