SIMPLY MESSING ABOUT IN BOATS
GREEN LAKE The Seattle Canoe and Kayak ladies charge the shore, then just short of crashing onto the path they pivot, float and chat. "Let's head back and fool around in tippy boats," someone suggests. And we all hare off, paddles windmilling through the summer sunshine.
Leader Traci Cole cruises alongside. "Want to try a beginner racing single?"
I climb into the Orion, a low, slinky shell. A breath, a ten-degree turn of the head, everything sets this kayak wobbling. Traci holds the tip and rotates me perpendicular to the dock. "Now I'll just push you back a little, then you can paddle in. Little taps," she calls.
For a second or two, I float, suspended. Then I gingerly inch the paddle forward. The Orion lurches left. I slap brace, overcorrect, and roll sputtering and flailing into Green Lake.
I surface into the July heat; my laughter braids with the other women's. Then and only then I get flatwater kayaking: the skill, the strength, the sheer balletic grace required to race one of these beauties. And I see how it all transforms this bossy, busy, Type-A urban lake into something sublime.
Finally too I understand the rest of Water Rat's boat-messing soliloquy: "In or out of 'em, it doesn't matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that's the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all."