Rendezvous With Destiny

A few years ago, Ken and I bought kayaks. I’d been watching the Canadian Tire flyers for weeks, waiting for a sale, until finally, they dropped the price on the model we wanted by $100 apiece, making them very reasonable. So I called Ken, and we agreed (after he refused to take time off work and go first thing in the morning because he’s just mean) that we would get them the next night. I was worried that they’d all be sold out, but luckily we were able to get one for each of us. Then the problems started. Our neighbour had had his kayaks stolen from behind his cottage, where they were CHAINED UP, so how were we supposed to retain possession of ours when they were just either sitting on our trailer or lying on our lawn? Ken didn’t share my fear of kayak thieves, which just made things worse, because he insisted on driving places with them, and leaving them unattended while we did stuff like grocery shopping or going to restaurants. And there they were, in the trailer, like shining green beacons of adventure-ness, secured only by a rope and a couple of knots. Here’s a sample of one of the MANY conversations we had about the kayaks:

Me: We can’t just GO into Staples. We have the kayaks on the trailer. Someone could take them.
Ken: No one’s going to take them. It’s broad daylight.
Me: Some of these people look really sketchy. Don’t park next to the guy with the pick-up truck!!
Ken: Right. Because he’s going to untie the kayaks, put them in his truck, and drive away BEFORE we come back out from buying labels.
Me: He looks like he enjoys water sports, KEN…What about those guys over there?
Ken: They have bicycles. What do you think, they’re going to tie them onto their bikes like a pontoon?
Me: It could happen. Stop mocking me.

You can replace the word “Staples” with “Zehrs”, “Canadian Tire”, the gluten-free bakery in Paris, and the Lighthouse Restaurant in Port Burwell, because we dragged that trailer around with us for a few days before we even put the kayaks into the water. Despite my worries though, no one stole off with them in the night. Or in the parking lot. Then on the weekend, we finally had the chance to try them out. We took them down to the Otter Creek and carried them to the water. Ken steadied my kayak so I could get in. It wobbled from side to side and I sat there, feeling panic rising but while Ken was getting himself sorted out, I tried a few hesitant manoeuvres, and started to feel more balanced. As I turned around to tell Ken I thought this might be OK, he stepped into his kayak. As he settled himself into the seat, the kayak wobbled one way—he tried to re-balance but overcompensated and TIPPED HIMSELF RIGHT INTO THE CREEK.

I yelled, “Oh sh*t! Ken!” but all he could do was flail around in the water, his hands on the creek bottom, trying to extricate himself from the kayak shouting, “Cold!! So cold!!” as he struggled to stand up (luckily, we were only in about two feet of water at the time). Thankfully, he had put his wallet, cell phone, and camera into a ziplock bag, but it was now floating downstream along with his paddle. “Get the bag and the paddle!” he cried, and I was like, “Me? You’re kidding, right?” I had just seen my beloved husband, who was MUCH better than me at both watersports and balancing, dump himself into a freezing creek—how was I supposed to start chasing down his stuff if it meant having to lean over the side of the kayak to get them?

But then my desire to get a picture of all this chaos outweighed my fear, and I needed his camera to do that, and that doesn’t make me mercenary, just practical. Anyway, he managed to get upright, and pulled his kayak out of the water. Then there was the problem of DRAINING the kayak, which was full of water. Well, I guess people must capsize this particular brand of kayak A LOT because we discovered that there was a plug in the prow, specifically designed for draining. But there was a silver lining to all of this, because while I was waiting for Ken to recover, and get all the water out of his kayak, I had a chance to paddle around and get more comfortable.

And now I’m having déjà vu because last weekend, we went kayaking, again on the Otter Creek. Now that we’re both kayak pros, it was a beautiful trip, but then the unbelievable happened when we pulled the kayaks out of the water:

Ken: My camera!
Me: What?
Ken: The ziplock bag fell out of my pocket! Quick, get me a paddle!

Me: I TOLD you to wear your fanny pack!

But it was too late. The ziplock bag, and in it, the exact camera he had almost lost a few years ago, bobbed downstream with the quick current, then disappeared. Almost like it was meant to be, like we had unfinished business with the Otter Creek. It wasn’t one of his good cameras, and he’d cleared the SD card out the week before, so all we were missing was pictures of me in the kayak and some trees and clouds. Luckily, we already have lots of those.

Bad Omens

Last Sunday afternoon, our new neighbours contacted us, wondering if we wanted to go kayaking with them. It seemed like a good idea at the time, so Ken and I agreed. We launched at one bridge outside of town, with the intention of getting out at the next bridge which, by car, was less than two minutes away. It was a gorgeous day, and after paddling for ABOUT AN HOUR, I said, “Hey, how long is this going to take?” because my shoulder was still not 100% despite the 4 shock wave treatments I’d had. And let me clarify for everyone right now that it’s NOT electroshock—it’s sound waves and has nothing to do with my brain at all, although if it did, I might have been able to think twice about a kayak trip that looked like it would take half an hour as the crow flies, but in fact took over two hours as the river meanders.

Anyway, we’d been on the water for a little while and it was very peaceful. Suddenly around the bend, we saw a giant bird. It was a green heron, sitting on the bank. As we got closer, Ken tried to get a picture of it, but it took off, flapping its giant wings. We were sad, but not too much farther upstream, there was another green heron. And then a blue heron. And then a WHITE ONE. And what I had forgotten is that herons are not so much a breathtaking natural wonder but a very bad omen. Once, many years ago when I was still teaching, I had a department head who was an earth mother type. She and her husband had just installed a huge pond in their backyard, and stocked it with very large and expensive koi fish. One morning, she came into our office, breathless with excitement.

“I looked out my kitchen window,” she said to all of us gathered around, “and there, shrouded in the morning mist, stood a heron. It was so majestic and wonderful!” (We were English teachers and talked like this all the time).

“Oh!” said a young ingenue. “I just looked it up and herons are a sign of good fortune and progress. Lucky you!”

Everyone mooned about the heron, all of us wishing we had one too. But then the next morning, our leader returned, dejected.

“What’s wrong?” we asked.

“The heron ate all my koi,” she replied tearfully.

So herons are basically harbingers of doom, and if I’d remembered that at the time, I would have paid more attention to the obviously dire message that the string of heron sightings was meant to convey and I wouldn’t have found myself caught up on rocks in a section of rapids, with my kayak rapidly filling up WITH said rapids, screaming to Ken for help. We managed to tip my kayak and drain most of the river out of it right then and there, but the water was moving so fast that I lost my balance several times, causing both my flipflops to come off, leaving me hopping around barefoot on very sharp rocks. I spent the rest of the trip, which took ANOTHER HOUR, sitting in 4 inches of water sans shoes. Still, the weather was charming and the company was good, despite the herons and their pall of ill fortune.

And I would have been well to have remembered that on Wednesday, when I turned from my desk and caught a glimpse of something strange on our front porch railing. From where I was sitting, it looked like a large animal hunched over. My tolerance for things has become remarkably low since the lockdown started so my first reaction was, “What the f*ck is on my porch at 9 o’clock in the morning?!” I was additionally trepidatious, having already been terrorized the day before by a psychotic squirrel that had slammed spreadeagled into the window inches from my head during a meeting, causing me to jump and shriek, which in turn caused my team to jump and yell, “What’s happening?! Should we call 911? Qu’est ce qui se passe? Appelle la police!” And then I had to explain that it was only a squirrel. Outside.

So I very cautiously crept to the front door and peeked out the window to see A HERON perched on my railing. I still hadn’t put two and two together with the bad luck and whatnot, so I was like, “Cool!” I texted Ken: Come down quietly—there’s a heron on the porch.

Slight tangent: Ken and I have always owned houses with two stories, and because I don’t want to damage my voice by constantly yelling up at him, and because Ken has terrible hearing (Ken: No, I don’t! Me: What? I can’t hear you.) we’ve always had either an intercom system, two-way radios, or other means of communication between floors because—and you may be surprised to hear this—I talk a lot. Luckily now we can just text each other.

Ken tiptoed downstairs and we were both amazed at this giant bird just sitting there. We got some pictures before it suddenly spread its massive wings and took off. But then I remembered those ill-fated koi from many years ago and insisted that we go out and check our small pond to make sure the goldfish were still intact. They were. But as we were patrolling the garden, we found a tiny mourning dove with a broken wing in the bushes right below the heron’s perch. After doing some research, we discovered that herons will also attack and eat smaller birds, which explains why it was hovering like a f*cking vulture on my porch railing. Ken called a rehabilitation centre for wildlife in the next town over, and drove the dove there. We haven’t heard if it survived, but I hope so.

Long story short, herons are assholes.