I recently read an article in Writer’s Digest about rule-breaking and pushing boundaries in order to unleash one’s true creative potential. The article explained that having more interesting life experiences would inevitably lead to having more interesting writing ideas, giving the adventurous author an edge over the types who sit at home day in and day out. While, to be perfectly fair, I usually classify myself as more of the passive writer, today certainly proved more exciting than usual.
Currently, I’m on vacation in that “secluded lakeside cabin” in Maine I believe I’ve mentioned before. (Although, at the moment, it doesn’t seem quite so secluded, due to an influx of July 4th vacationers.) I took a kayak trip with my parents to the end of the lake and down an adjoining river. Here–I’ll provide an extremely accurate map of our route drawn in MS Paint with a mouse.
I should become a cartographer.
At first, everything was perfectly ordinary. There were minnows in the shallows, motor boats making lots of waves, young children standing on docks apparently trying to beat the fish into submission with their lures. I acted as the family radio, belting out “I’m at a payphone, trying to call home” and similar miscellaneous lyrics from the Top Forty. Then we entered the river. It’s a lot narrower and shallower than my lovely map suggests–motor boats can’t fit through it. Trees and logs lean over the water and poke out from the bottom. If you go in far enough, you can’t hear any sounds of civilization.
It all changed when the flies attacked.
I have never seen so many biting insects grouped in one location before in my life. We were forced to abandon all but the occasional paddling in order to whack the horseflies and mosquitoes away. It was always a great triumph when their stunned bodies hit the water and floated away, carried by the sluggish current. A few bites were inevitable, however. I think all of us are pretty itchy now–I know I am.
I was highly bothered. I’m a blogger, I thought. I should be sitting indoors with my laptop writing something, not out here in Insect Hell. My fortune and outlook were reversed when my parents decided to beach the kayaks at a spit of sand and take a swim. Aquatic sports in general greatly appeal to me, but I much prefer swimming to kayaking. I helped my dad drag our tandem kayak up into the sand and, still swatting flies, took off my life jacket. (Water safety, kids.) After a brief incident during which I nearly lost a flip flop to the silt, I waded into the river.
The current was up to several miles an hour at this part of the river, and the water was, if not frigid, pretty cold. The area was clear of logs. The only things that disturbed the perfect peace were a) the continued assault of the flies, and b) the smell of a nearby cow farm that called to mind the agricultural division of the county fair. It was at this point that the Writer’s Digest article came to mind; I’m always seeking to improve my writing in any way possible. So, I jumped in.
Yes, it was really chilly. Yes, I had to swim hard against the current, not that I wasn’t up for the challenge. No, being soaked did not make the flies go away. But it was certainly worth it.
Even once we’d made it back to the lake and were clear of the flies’ domain, we had one last little adventure. A loon–a rare sight–surfaced extremely close to our kayaks. We could have touched it with a paddle. The bird was much larger than I’d expected, and had distinctly red eyes. There’s no other word for it–it was cool.
Whether or not this one adventure has a noticeable effect on my flow of writing ideas remains to be seen. Either way, I would never want to un-live it.