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Nature Speaks to Me

Kelly Fest


As I got out of the motor boat onto the graveled sandbar and stepped into the kayak, the smell of fresh air laced with the scent of honeysuckle filled the air. On the bank were honeysuckle bushes flagging the trees in a wide berth. A large rock, obviously fallen to the water many years before, held a water-moccasin that writhed gently in the sun. I watched cautiously, as I knew these reptiles to be aggressive, but this snake appeared not to have noticed my presence and sat graciously upon its throne, holding court to the golden blooms close by on the bank. James Michener’s house and various other mansions that dotted the precipice above me hung like castles in the air on a green and mossy cloud, high upon the banks above the city of Austin.

As I climbed into the kayak and Bean showed me how to manage the sleek, silver water-craft, I lifted the paddle and dipped it into the shimmering water as the sun rose high in the heavens. Cool crystal water poured off the paddle. Rolling the paddle gently through my palms was a calming motion. It brought peace to my heart, as well as my soul, to be there at that very place and moment in time. I felt as if I had been born for this and thought about how the Native Americans must have felt in their primitive state, doing this very same thing so many centuries ago. No wonder they had such an appreciation for Mother Earth and all that it held.

I started on my way, a heavy push off the bank with my right foot and let it dip slightly into the water as I pulled my body into the kayak. The water was very cold, but the warm sun on my back made the water feel refreshing and cool on that hot, blistering day. I grabbed underneath my legs to make sure I had sun-block and Gatorade enough for the trip. I pulled my pony-tail holder out of my bag and hastily pulled my hair up off of my neck in an effort to remain cool for the trip down Town Lake from Redbud Trail to IH-35. It was an absolutely gorgeous day.

I grabbed the oar again and began to make the rowing motions as Bean had shown me, letting the special paddle roll to and fro in my hands as I switched sides. It was a marvelously free feeling and gave me the sense that anything was possible as I rapidly picked up speed and swished down the lake faster and faster. Now this was power! Power over nature. Power over land. Power over water.

I stopped paddling for a moment and let the kayak coast across the gleaming water at its own pace for a bit. A squirrel scrambled up the bank and into a tree as it disturbed a flock of black birds into flight across the landscape. More squirrels in others trees chattered at it loudly, and I laughed at their antics.

Further down the lake, Lantana bushes mottled the panorama in patches. Spanish moss hung tangled with the vines from the trees along the walking trails that peeked through the shrubbery. As I got closer to Barton Springs, I encountered people in other water-craft of various sorts. Canoes, other kayaks, and paddle-boats were abundant and people walked and ran along the trails: some alone, others with friends, and others still with their dogs or on bicycles.

Traces of moss floated by me in the water giving it a greener hue than it would have had with just the blue of the sky to reflect it. Water-lilies floated at the edge of the bank in a spot where a pair of black swans gracefully glided across the water, their babies in tow frantically swimming behind them. The mother swan dropped back from the single-file and pecked at one of the babies to stay in line. It playfully pecked back at her, as these chicks were almost old enough to leave the nest and establish their independence.

I turned right toward Barton Springs and paddled up into the long fiord-like neck of the cove. More people were canoeing than had been on the other part of the lake. More animals seemed to cluster here, as well. A gust of wind suddenly caught the end of my pony-tail and whipped it into my face, hair tangling in my mouth. I looked up and saw clouds starting to roll over me and realized that I had better hurry if I wanted to make it back in time to beat the coming storm. Who could predict Texas weather? A low, rumbling noise echoed over the water as I turned around in the kayak and headed back towards IH-35. Everyone else around me looked up cautiously and began to nervously paddle for shore.

I struggled to make the rest of the trip with the wind whipping off the lake, stirring up sprays of water all around my face and body. As I passed the white and blue, Mississippi-styled paddle-boat in front of the Hyatt, the waterfall in front of the hotel looked very dark, reflecting the dark and roiling sky behind it. I could see the sign for the Austin American Statesman winking from behind the hotel, a sign that I was back in civilization supreme. Once again in the hands of man, I was quickly reminded of my immediate need to get off the water. As I pulled up to the dock and pulled the kayak off the water, lightning started to crisscross the sky in slashes of brilliant, crystalline light. I was delighted with my jaunt, but glad to be safe and sound off the water.