Looking back can reveal surprises

Posted 2/22/23

Revelations can be wonderful surprises or, as I realized last week, a product of opening one’s eyes to what is there.  In this instance my eyes were wide open. I knew where I was and what …

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Looking back can reveal surprises


Revelations can be wonderful surprises or, as I realized last week, a product of opening one’s eyes to what is there.  In this instance my eyes were wide open. I knew where I was and what suddenly appeared was a surprise.

This should all make sense with a little context.

As I have related in this space, I enjoy rowing on the bay in the early morning as the horizon glows orange and shafts of the rising sun reach upward. Of course, it’s not always as idyllic as that picture would suggest. There are days, actually quite a few this winter, when it was overcast and the sun seemed to have forgotten us. There were mornings when fog wrapped itself around the bay like a blanket and there were many days when waves banged against the seawall making it treacherous to launch a single, never mind attempting to row the 18-foot craft.

Unlike all the previous winters we’ve lived in Conimicut, however, there have been only a couple of days when ice made rowing impossible. There hasn’t been a snow day so far. The snow blower sits unused. I haven’t put gas in the tank and there’s no knowing whether it will start. The snow shovels have gotten some use in picking up piles of leaves to be stuffed into those brown paper bags. Perhaps this non-winter is a revelation of the new norm or a harbinger of surprises to come.

What got me thinking about revelations, surprisingly, turned out to be a stick.

I’ve said before that when you are rowing you don’t see where you are going. This can make for some odd encounters. Although I will occasionally look over my shoulder, I know the area so well that I’m not concerned hitting anything. I’ll scan the water before setting out and, usually when the stripers starting running in the spring, I’ll make a mental note of where boats are. It’s good to have some company and fishermen are happy to talk especially when I relay where I’ve spotted fish.

The swans aren’t as congenial. Unlike geese and ducks that take to the air as I approach, the swans  wait until I’m  a few feet away before deciding it’s time to move with a lot of flapping and churning of water. Invariably there is one or two in the flock that go directly ahead 50 to 100 feet, so the entire process is repeated. I came close to hitting one bird this winter that for a moment looked prepared to attack.  It thought better of it when I raised the oars.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the post – more of a stick – that suddenly came in view off the overlook on Beach Avenue. I missed hitting it by at least 20 feet. I’ve come across plenty of debris including tree limbs, plastic buckets, a fuel tank and even a partially sunken skiff, especially after storms.  This is stuff carried by the wind and tides. It’s floating.

This was different. This post was standing up straight. At first I thought it was the steel shank to a mushroom anchor that had been stood up right, which could prove dangerous to an unsuspecting boater like me. I was lucky not to have hit it.

I rowed over to check it out. It was wood, not metal and appeared to be secured to the bottom. Holding outstretched oars in one hand to prevent me from capsizing I used my free hand to yank on the post. It lifted. Obviously something heavy on the bottom was keeping it upright. I pulled it up to reveal a metal plate on the bottom. I balanced it on the transom and rowed home.

I had time to ponder the series of events, realizing that often times we’re so accustomed to our routines that we don’t look at where we’ve been. Rowers are always going backwards. I doubt this makes them less likely to think ahead. However, if anything, it should make them more vigilant of where they are.

The revelation for me was that if you look back there is always the chance of finding that which is undiscovered in your past. We have all thought of “what if I had done this, imagine where I would be.” It’s easy to be the Monday morning quarterback.

But how often do we look back and take the time to be thankful for not hitting an obstacle that we didn’t see coming until we got beyond it?

As for the implement, encrusted with barnacles, it appears to be an ice chopper. Who knows, it could still be of use this winter.

side up, editorial


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