Scything the mirror of Lake Cochichuate with perfect stability, I turn my soft focused gaze towards the bridge on the horizon. Poised at the ready, I visualize the sequence, whispering hands away from the body together, hang lightly between knuckles without pausing then feather, drive legs down before arms follow. The delicate morsel of the first definitive slide, unfurls the perfect paper party favor of anticipation. Surprising stillness of darkest depth, offers itself to the lone boat skimming across the water. Pent up emotions create a wake as they cascade down from my shoulders, glide past my elbows, flow through my thumbs across the oar locks and out over the tips of the oars to form ever dissolving small circles, that follow the boat.
It seems but a moment later I find myself in the middle of the lake with no memory of the effort required to arrive there. In front of me, the land recedes as behind me a new shore appears and comes closer. Accompanied by the laughter of the small children we carry, I pause to drink in a rare moment of profound privilege. Choosing to continue sometimes means turning my back on all that is known to travel to a place that does not hold so much as the promise of a single gold ring. It is this immense clarity that drives my shell towards the growing sliver of land.
I know it is time to head back to the dock when fatigue mixed with a peppering of debris filled algae, germinates seeds of self-doubt. A moment of panic echoes the questioning of my abilities as my right oar goes deeper than it should, to create a momentary wobble in the boat. A memory rises to forcefully grab my attention. “Remain calm”.
My father is running, carrying me into the night. I can see my mother on the other side of the street, holding my brother’s hand. I feel the warmth of his arms as they gobble the cold that reaches toward me. There is a fire in the furnace room, and I am screaming. His abrupt stop coincides with the sting on my cheek and my sharp intake of breath as I realize he has slapped me. “STOP IT NOW! Panic will kill you as surely as any fire.”
After the fire department left, and we were all safely back inside, he told us the story of the fire that killed many people he knew. The Coconut Grove was a fashionable Boston nightclub where four hundred and ninety-two people perished, in part because panic caused the revolving door and too few exits to be rendered useless.
The tension immediately releases allowing the oars to rise to their natural point of balance and serenity is quickly restored. While working my way back across the lake I recognize that my shoulders for the first time, are planted firmly on my back, rather than up around my ears. I am elated by a growing sense of composure and increased confidence.
A few moments later lying on the dock stretching, I contemplate the expanse of water that has already been traveled in a few short weeks. The clouds in the sky luxuriate as my friend Erin and I thrill in the exhilaration at the smoothest transition yet. I offer prayers of thanks. There is no turning back. The decision that has again hung precariously on the rim for weeks – to say yes to life, effortlessly drops once more, with a satisfying swoosh.