Through the Lily Pads

This marsh within the Falls Lake ecosystem houses a wide variety of flora and fauna. Beaver dams can be seen barricading the marsh from the lake as red-winged blackbirds soar just above the surface of the water. (Photo courtesy of Ray Youman)

It was the first warm Saturday morning of the year, with 70 degree temperatures and a sun unshielded by any clouds above. The wind smacked the back of my head with a calm hand as I walked down to the shoreline at Falls Lake. I placed the orange SportLine kayak into water and pushed off of the algae covered rocks into the deep end.

The waves rocked the craft as I struggled to regain control with the paddles, eventually turning into the wind and letting the gust carry me downshore. It pushed my back, sending the kayak forward and away from the makeshift dock. Soon, it was completely out of sight.

I crack open my rations — an orange drink with a slice of pizza. The colors seem so out of place with my surroundings: flowering trees signaling the first hint of spring in front of a massive blue sky. My colors signal me as a foreigner to this land, traversed only by beavers and red-winged blackbirds. As the rations deplete, my eyes refocus. I hear a steady stream of water in the distance. Paddling closer to the source, I’m fixated on intertwined branches slowing the flow of water two feet above me.

Beavers must be nature’s greatest engineers. I hop out onto their work and drag my kayak over the dam. A paradise of crystal blue water and reeds are over the horizon.

Pushing my kayak into this new world, I am slow to completely take in the drastic change in my surroundings. The beaver marsh is filled lily pads, spanning across the water’s surface in almost every direction. At that moment, a bald eagle whooshes above the tree jutting from the center of the marsh. Lodges float on both sides of my kayak. Though I don’t spot any beavers, their hard work reflects in the intricacy of their design, as if such design is second nature in their minds. Leaning over to touch the lilies, I spot my reflection in the water.

Nature is where I feel most at home. The senses ignite and all stressors pause in order to live for the moment. No matter where I travel and move to in my life, my true home will always be one step outside my door.

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