[Note: I’ve been back on the farm since Monday, but still have a couple of posts I need to compile and post. This is from Nov 15th]
I’m spent. Sure, I’m spent every day, but today is a new shade of spent, a new angle on the feeling of being “done.” Past days, it was a sun/paddle/snorkel/sun/paddle/snorkel routine that left me feeling desiccated, no matter how much water I forced down my gullet. No matter that we were immersed in water, water everywhere, and even with as many drops, and cups and water bottles full to drink, it seemed to pass through me, leaving me feeling, at the end of the day like a damp piece of beef jerky.
The heat – even yesterday, the heat was staggering. But this morning, the rains that come every night never let up, and continued on through the day. It drizzled, bucketed, lashed, and sometimes merely rained. Fresh water on the sea, tiny drops rebounding improbably when they hit, reflecting and refracting the gray above to make the sea a dark sky of four-point stars twinkling below us as we plowed along in our plastic spaceships.
It was a warm rain by Pacific Northwest standards, but it was relentless, and that relentlessness can sap you as surely as the cold. It hammered the tin roof of the ranger station on Eil Malk Island, bracing for our hike to the interior where we were to swim in the fabled Jellyfish Lake. Chilled the surface of the lake itself – if you dove down, deeper and deeper past the millions of moon jellies and golden jellies, it got warm, then even hot. Unnervingly hot. But you always had to return to the surface, and the relentless tap tap tapping of the rain.
And after the dive, after the hike, after some more paddling and another short hike, three more miles of open water against the wind, back to camp. Stops along the way, giant clams to dive among, stilling the movie-borne imaginations of one snapping closed on a wayward hand of foot and trapping you down there, down there where it was warm and silent. I kept my distance.
But when your breath was done, there was no choice but to return to the surface, to the lashing wind and waves, to the kayaks lashed together offshore.
Came time for the final dash back to camp, Cap’n Jeff brought the boat over, with the option of ferrying us. But to sit still in that wind? Most of us chose the heat of pumping arms, pumping blood, powering ourselves across the strait, swells crashing over our tiny plastic bows. We were warm again by landfall, dragging our boats up on the sand, then a little farther so that high tide wouldn’t take them.
We stumbled out of our wet clothes into mercifully dry towels after a cold shower (solar, you see) to take the salt off. All I needed then was a dry change of clothes and a quiet still place in which to sit and write. The now-familiar behind the scenes evening bustle continued as an indistinct light faded to darker gray: Ludy directing work around the outdoor camp kitchen, Adam and JD securing tarps to where tents have been taking the brunt of the wind and rain. As I sit and write, the oily scent of citronella is cut with snatches of cooking meat – warm and rich in unfamiliar spice. My urge is to jump up and try to help – with the tarps, with the table, with anything. I like to think that’s my nature: to try and help. But tonight? Tonight I have nothing left.