At the lake


I often said of our home in Rapid City that it was in the perfect location: between the church and the lake. When I got home from work, I was half way to the lake. It wasn’t quite exactly half way, but it was close enough. On summer days, I often got up early in the morning and went paddling before coming back home to breakfast and heading into the office. The work that we did required us to have skill at self care. I needed the quiet moments at the lake to think and pray and connect with nature to balance the times when I was focused on other people and doing the work of the church. The lake was a place where my spirit could soar and I could remind myself that I am part of something much bigger than me.

Coming back to visit Rapid City, for me, involves both the joys of reconnecting with people and the joy of reconnecting with the place. Yesterday was a fun day of meeting folks and catching up on their lives. It began with a quiet paddle on the lake. We are staying at a different lake than my usual paddling spot in Rapid City and there is a lot of construction on the road to that lake, but the small lake in town is just find for the small canoe I’ve brought with me on this trip.

The canoe I have brought is the first one that I built after we moved to Rapid City. It was made as inexpensively as possible, out of fence grade cedar. The boards had lots of knots and I had to make a lot of scarf joints in the strips. The result is a lot of variation in color, which adds to the beauty of the boat. I sanded the boat down and applied a few coats of fresh varnish this spring before we departed on this trip. It is light weight, about 35 pounds, and I can carry it easily over my head.

Yesterday I walked down to the lake with the boat in the early morning, before there were many others up. I launched into the lake before the fishermen started to arrive. Watching the sunrise from the surface of a lake is a powerful experience for me. The reflections double the beauty from my point of view.

It was a kind of homecoming for me. The birds greeted me like old home week. The ducks and geese complained a bit as they swam away from my boat, but they weren’t so bothered that they took to flight, they just paddled away from my direction of travel. The great blue heron watched me approach and gave me a good look before taking to flight just a little bit farther down the lakeshore to resume fishing. The crows were the noisiest, swarming around their tree. The turkey vultures were silent, but stared at me as I glided past in my boat.

The lake is small, with an island in the middle. I took about half an hour to paddle around the shore and take pictures. When I set down my camera and paddled for exercise, I could make a trip around the lake in about 7 or 8 minutes. I paddled a few rounds to stretch my muscles and get a bit of exercise and then glided slowly around another time. By then, the fishermen had made it to the banks and were casing into the water, and I had to be careful to give them room. One fisherman was casting from the bridge to the island. I suspect that he wasn’t having much luck from that vantage point, but he was having his own time at the lake.

As was the case when I lived in Rapid City, my morning paddle set the mood for the day. I was grateful for the beauty I had witnessed and for the other creatures with whom I share this planet. I was refreshed by the water and the freshness of the morning. I was grateful for my small boat, built with my own hands, carrying me where I wanted to go. Paddling with a double paddle is just about the perfect stretch for the muscles of my arms and shoulders and a gentle, light exercise to begin my day. Throughout the rest of the day, when it got hot outdoors and we were hurrying from one meeting to another, I could remember the calm pace of the morning and the quiet nature of the birds who make the lake and shore their home.

I admit that being on vacation is quite different from the years of my working life. I sleep through the night knowing that my phone is not going to ring with a crisis that needs a response from me. I trust that the church is in the hands of others and that my role has shifted. I visit people for the joy of being with others and renewing relationships that grew over decades of working together in the life of the church. We can just enjoy each other without having to solve the day to day problems of running a church. I don’t have to prepare a sermon each week and I don’t have to keep track of the budget. Life is much less complex in retirement and a few days’ visit is a joy.

There is something about reconnecting with both the people and the place that has been very meaningful for me. I am reminded of what a good place this was to live, and what good people I had to share the ministry of the church. I know that my new home is also in a good place. I know that we are forming new relationships in our church there, but I am reminded of how good the work and life was for the years we lived in Rapid City. I am grateful for the opportunity to have lived and worked in this place. And I am grateful for the balance of nature and people that supported my spirit here.

Made in RapidWeaver