Sunday, September 21, 2008
This morning I had the opportunity to see that which we rarely get the opportunity to witness. In the cool, post-dawn air, sunlight glancing across the river where it found openings between the leaves and branches of the tall trees lining the riverbank, the morning mist rose from water’s surface with the warming air. I paddled more slowly and deliberately than usual trying hard not to disturb the quiet gentleness of the crisp morning air.
The vision of little wisps of condensed moisture rising and spinning reminded me of an experience while crossing the vast expanse of the Ottawa River where it separates Quebec from Ontario. In the company of 9 other men just completing a weeklong voyage down the Dumoine River, I witnessed an amazing display of atmospheric artistry. Then, too, the air was still with the early morning sanctuary of northland dawn. Silencing our busy tongues, a wall of mist rose vertically like a giant ethereal curtain some hundred or more feet into the reaches above our small red canoes. For many minutes we all felt as though immersed in a strange obstruction of time, feeling one another’s presence more fully as we all plunged into deep awe.
Far from the magnitude of my Ottawa experience, today’s exhibition was more of a delicate lesson in the complexity of air movement. As I indulged the energy necessary to stay focused on one wisp of moisture at a time, I realized that the pattern of air rising was not in contiguous blocks of matter. Rather, the effect of rapid vertical movement, a consequence of the relatively intense heating in direct light, was displayed as tiny vortices of mist that maintained their integrity long enough for my eyes to linger before seeking another similar helical display.
It struck me as fantastic that we move through the air of each day never fully realizing the elaborately fluid architecture of the space around us. Yes, on a grand scale we are able to witness the power of cyclonic air movement in the form of tornadoes, waterspouts, hurricanes and typhoons. But seldom are we privy to the intricate matrix within which we make our way each day. There are those, however, who find a way through and among these tiny eddies of air in the same way that the eagle rides the voluminous thermals of air leaping upward alongside a mountain slope bathed in full sun. The smallest aviators of the animal kingdom, tiny insects, ride these invisible escalators in a calculated effort to minimize their expenditure of energy. Feeling the subtle boundaries of rising and falling air lifting one wing and leading to a brief roll and then correction, these beings test and retest the mircocurrents with a skill unmatched by even the best of human pilots in the most technologically advanced aircraft.
We are humbled by these elements that are all about us. Their magnitude may be small in measured value, but in concept they are vast and difficult to fully comprehend. With the pause of reflection, one can resolve the mysteries that abound, taking along a new sense of understanding that will serve to better integrate with one’s surroundings on that next small adventure.
Old Inuit Poem
I think over again of my adventures, those small ones that seemed so big.
For all the vital things I had to get and to reach.
And yet there is only one great thing, the only thing.
To live to see the great day that dawns and the light that fills the world.