“The earth has music for those who listen.” - George Santayana
The magic of early evening paddling lives in the melody and in the unrushed pace with which the day draws to a close.
Pushing away from the shore for an after-dinner paddle last night, Cootes Paradise was just that and I quickly realized that I had picked the best time of day to get out. With the sun just starting to set, the light was beautiful, and it seemed that I had this little slice of Heaven all to myself.
The wildlife was very active too and so plentiful. I startled so many Great Blue Herons and each time they would fly off with an indignant echoing cry and the slow flapping of their pterodactyl looking massive wings. I was able to ease up to a couple of them if I stayed very still and just allowed the kayak to drift with the lazy current. These birds are magnificent as are the smaller Green Herons of which I spotted many.
The cormorants were out in force as well and I drifted right in on this one before it flew off.
They are messy birds but are fascinating to watch.
As always there were graceful swans and a variety of ducks to see as well as countless red-winged black birds. Clouds of the them would fly ahead of me full of song as I entered the narrow grassy channel past the West Pond.
At one point, I saw something swimming towards me and so stopped paddling. A beaver, quite young based on its size came to within about 10 feet of me, even exiting the water for me to fully see him, before I got too close and he splashed off into the reeds. With not much time, I managed to get one grainy image with my phone. Not ideal, but good enough to capture the size at least.
The sky was insanely stunning and the colours would change constantly. I often stopped and just sat silently taking it all in; the sights, the sounds, even the air which feels different if you take the time to notice. You can't help but be filled with gratitude in this setting. God's creation is truly a masterpiece and it can almost bring me to tears at times with just how perfect it can be, the slivers that remain untouched by man's hand. These moments energize me, fill me with joy and strengthen my faith. Regardless of what you believe, it is impossible to not be in awe when you are alone and out here breathing in these surroundings.
I took my time returning, paddling quietly in the hopes of seeing more wildlife, a strategy that almost immediately delivered results. Just before I returned from the tall grasses, a dark pointy head came out of the water beside me, literally the size you would see on a small dog. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it startled me, particularly in the semi-darkness! I could see the outline of the mossy covered shell which had to be two feet across, just massive, probably the biggest snapping turtle I have ever seen.
When he dove, his shell came out of the water before descending, looking like a whale gracefully breaching the surface. So cool.
Returning to the launch point in the dark, an adult beaver swam right past me going the opposite way. I stopped paddling so as not to startle him and he nonchalantly swam past me and then said goodbye with a loud splash of his tail as he dove. A perfect final interaction before leaving the water grateful for the time, the experience and the determination to get out as much as I can in the remaining warmer months.
I wrote this poem in 2018 after a similar venture on these waters. Being out here obviously leaves its mark on me and I am grateful to be in such close proximity to this special spot.
With Falls colours right around the corner, I am looking forward to returning and listening to that colourful song as well, a final symphony before winter closes in and all goes quiet for a few months of rest.