July 23, 2015
I chased a snake in my kayak today, something I never would have done a few short years ago. I’m not sure if it was a cottonmouth or only a banded water snake, but when it stuck its head out of the water like a periscope, I couldn’t resist following its wake. I pointed him out to the rest of my family and we tracked him across the lake. The glasslike surface in front of us reflected the forested mountain as my family and I paddled furiously to catch up to our mini Loch Nessie. The closer we drew, the more we could see the snake’s body ripple as it made its way toward shore. We cut him off before he hit his destination. We surrounded him and he reared his head back, but we were out of striking distance. We had no purpose in our chase other than to witness his movements close up, and having accomplished that, we backed up our kayaks and continued on our journey.
We slid through the water, sometimes paddling, other times enjoying the momentum our efforts created. We had no destination and no time in which to get there. The sun stroked our skin and gentle breezes lifted the hair off our sweaty foreheads. We had the entire lake to ourselves and our laughter echoed off the sides of the sheared mountains. Layers of red and brown rock formed ribbons of strength, penetrating the water and disappearing beneath the surface.
A rumbling in the distance drew our attention to the far side of the lake. Our cerulean sky ended at the mountain’s peak and heavy grey clouds threatened to push over the summit, marring our day. Lighting bolts crashed on the other side of the ridge and we agreed to find shelter in case the storm climbed to our side. We increased our speed, my life vest chafing my under arm so I removed it. The calm water had no undertow and if I flipped, the danger would be minimal. We banked on a sandy beach, pushing our crafts high enough to disembark without capsizing.
We walked into the woods and found a clearing within feet of the water’s edge. A fire pit sat to one side and ropes tied to trees in various configurations spoke of a rope’s course, or a family’s idea of outdoor fun. We played on their equipment while eating lunch, being careful not to leave wrappers or crumbs behind. The storm grew louder. Thunder crashed, shattering the stillness, a wind kicked up dead leaves and twigs, but the heavy greyness couldn’t lift itself over the mountain. Deciding we were not in danger, we went swimming after we ate, defying the rules and daring our bellies to hurt. The warm water sluiced over us as we dove under. It was so clear we could see the bottom from the top, and the top from the bottom. We played and splashed, trying to ignore the suctioning of our feet by the mud of the lake floor.
In the past, I missed out on days like this. The thought of putting on a bathing suit made me cringe and feelings of vulnerability stole any hope I had of joining my family. Time and time again, my husband reluctantly accept my decision not to join them on an outing. Each time, my heart broke. One day when they returned from a trip laughing and sharing memories I would never have, I cried knowing how much I missed, and for what? They already knew what I looked like. They’d already seen every dimple and roll and still wanted me to go with them. My children didn’t care I had weight to lose. They cared I wasn’t going with them on a family outing. They cared I didn’t want to join them. They cared I’d rather stay home than be with them. My insecurities robbed my children of memories I could never replace. How arrogant was I to think my looks mattered more than those memories?
Today I chased a snake in my kayak, I played on a ropes course, swam with my family, and made a bunch of memories. No one cared that I need to lose weight. No one cared that I wore my bathing suit. They cared that I was there, with them, having fun.
Tomorrow, we’re going to ride bikes.
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