The living room is the largest room in the house I grew up in, and the ancient rug and hardwood floor understands well the weight of topographic maps spread and stamped down across its length and breadth. So it is with this trip, as the oft-empty room is populated by exploded repair kits, paddle bags, and the full coverage of 1:100,000 scale maps of Western Europe.
Empty beer bottles- Geary’s Summer Ale – mark Nantes, Orleans, Basel, Vienna and so on, a march of empties into the former Soviet bloc. In traveling to the Old World, I consult river guides as well as history books, cook books as well as Wikipedia entries- and now, with Hurricane Irene playing havoc with the power grid and my expeditious timeline, the spinning sphere at the initiation of Google Earth has been replaced by the sephia glow of candles illuminating the cradle of the Enlightenment. It is equal parts fitting and frustrating, that as the tremendous leap of faith required of all just departing explorers is upon me, my connection to the coddling and empowering world of technology is severed. Sip, stop, stare. Into the breach, then.
After three months of field work in the Yukon Territory, I am resting comfortably at my parent’s house in New England. I arrived tired, but ready to sink into the old rhythm of planning a multi-week canoe expedition. The twist this time was that the destination was on the other side of the Atlantic, and the unknowns of the route defy any charge of scholarship.
On Tuesday, September 6th, I fly out.
At such times, under an abated sun; afloat all day upon smooth, slow heaving swells; seated in his boat, light as a birch canoe; and so sociably mixing with the soft waves themselves, that like hearthstone cats they purr against the gunwale; these are the times of dreamy quietude, when beholding the tranquil beauty and brilliancy of the ocean’s skin, one forgets the tiger heart that pants beneath it; and would not willingly remember, that this velvet paw but conceals a remorseless fang.