Hard trips and wonder

No, not a shark. A porpoise in a more serene mode…

As we saw last time, hard trips wear us down. That may not seem positive until you realize how all the effort you expend leaves you in a state where you see and think differently. In the aftermath of exhaustion, we find a kind of focus, a relaxed pose where we’re far more present to the world around us.

Following my own hard trip back in December, I had the weekend in Orlando before meetings on Monday. My friend took me out on kayaks on Sunday to fly fish in one of the shallow estuaries around Cape Canaveral. We caught nothing that day, not even a bite. But it didn’t matter. I was in that place following a hard trip where I was both content to be there with a good friend and yet strangely attuned to the world around me in ways I’m normally not.

After exiting the kayaks, we stood in about 30 inches of water, wading and fishing. I saw numerous pelicans dive for fish. Nothing new there. Until one pelican dives, and instead of hitting the water, it levels out and glides for what seemed a quarter of a mile literally two inches above the water. I could detect no muscle move on that bird as it silently floated in a straight line over the liquid surface beneath. Stunning.

Later, out of the still waters around us, a mound of water began to rise and move toward us, maybe 100 feet away. It grew in size to a swell almost two feet high and several feet wide. What could it be? How could a wave or swell start from nothing out here? Then I saw that it was two porpoises swimming furiously, side by side, on the surface of the water creating this liquid wall.

Suddenly, the porpoise on the left makes an additional movement. A large fish emerges between the two, chased over by the left porpoise. Equally fast, the porpoise on the right reaches out and grabs the fish in its mouth. Two seconds later, the swell is gone (and so is the fish, a victim of a clever tag team of these two porpoises).

I might have taken casual note of nature’s side show at some other time, but on this day, because of where I was mentally, physically, emotionally and even spiritually, I stood there in wonderment of the most extreme kind. I was like a kid seeing a fireworks show for the first time, awed by both the sight itself and the awareness that you had no awareness before that very moment that something of such splendor existed.

This makes me think of an entry I wrote two years ago on the rest Frodo experiences after his trip to Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings. It’s a reminder that hard trips are indeed hard.

But they can provide unexpected rewards that make us truly aware of the wonder of the world in which we travel and help us appreciate it ways we never would on an easier journey.

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