When the roar of the engine dies and the
boat settles to her haunches, her nose
coming to rest seconds later, silence becomes
There are such moments. Moments when everything
is magical. They arrive without warning, unexpected.
This was one of them, I knew as soon as the engine
fell silent and the boat settled into a quiet drift.
The last hour before dusk, and the setting sun
turned everything golden, saturated the greens,
browns, reds and blacks of the lake nearly to
the point of exaggeration, unreal. There had
been a slight breeze earlier, before I moved
from one spot to this one, but now the wind
was gone and the surface of the water was still
as glass. Shad, fleeing a predator, undulated
their backs under the shimmering plane of it,
rings of rising fish expanded outward like the
Damselflies swarmed, joined in mating, and they
touched the water so slightly they left not even
a swirl of their passing. They were so slight,
so diminutive and their lives so brief they
hardly seemed to exist at all, but there in
the last hour of the day their paths aflight
seemed to sparkle with starfire, tiny pinpricks
against the green-black water. Frogs bellowed
to each other, speaking across great distances,
but the sudden screech of an owl startled them
One of those moments. I let the boat drift along
the little canal's mouth unguided. Everything
seemed made of gold: green-gold, brown-gold,
red-gold, all shades of the rainbow augmented
and uplifted by gold. Sunlight peeked over the
cypresses, throwing lances of gossamer light,
fanning. A large, black and hairy spider scurried
around the back side of a tree, disturbed at the
near passing of the boat. It, too, seemed to be
fringed by gold, a halo of shipwrecked sunbeams.
The whole lake seemed to immerse itself in those
last few moments of the day, and I had the distinct
and powerful conviction that I would behold some
great moving of heaven and earth, some momentous
revelation, if I only knew where to look.
These are the moments that sustain me. This,
in all its golden glory and liquid majesty,
is my cathedral, temple and choir. It has
been said that before we are born we knew
the secrets of all time, but an angel came
along just at the moment of birth and touched
his finger to our lip — creating the small
indention just under the nose — and sealed
that knowledge away from us forever. Out here,
in these moments, all those secrets are like
the words of a song just on the tip of the
tongue but not quite remembered, like a name
in the back of the mind not quite recalled.
Struggle for it, try to conjure it up, coax
it out, but it remains elusive and unreachable.
The boat drifts slowly upon a dark canal,
canopied with trees. I have been here before,
many times, and I know that spirits lurk in
the darkness behind the bright glow of dusk.
Yet I know not to fear them, that the spirits
of my father's people no longer suffer the
indignation of Western bias or cross-bearing
zealotry. Just as I know that one day, when I
take my last breath under a golden twilight,
my spirit guide will come for me, to carry me
to the last great undiscovered country. I have
not lived my life under threat of damnation;
rather, I have spent my years under promise
These are the moments when it all makes sense
to me. There is no concrete here, no cold steel,
no drone of machinery or ringing of phones.
Clouds drift in, for there is promise of rain
tonight, and I almost look forward to it, the
scent and sound and feel of it on my skin. The
sunbeams are dappled now, piercing clouds and
hiding behind them. A small circle opens in the
billows, and the rays stream out brilliantly,
and I wonder if I might see the Lorax lift
himself by the seat of the pants through it.
He understood, the Lorax did. That there is
no erudition between concrete and steel, in
mahogany halls or windowed towers.
Did you intend
that beauty and truth should pass utterly from the Earth?
It all makes sense to me in this place, these
moments. How life is not nearly so important
as living. How watching is not so necessary as
seeing and hearing not so vital as listening.
Away from this place, there's too much noise
to hear, too much static to see. When I retreat
from where I must spent most of my waking hours
my eyes ache from powerful electromagnetic fields,
cheerily planting tumors in my brain. My joints
protest, stiff and sore, when I move away from
the hours trapped by the ticking dictator on the
wall. My shirttail is tucked neatly under my belt,
hair combed, my shoe laces tied, but my heart is
dry as old pecan branches, brittle as old window
glass. The Lorax understood this. That beauty and
truth cannot be allowed to pass utterly from the
world. What would be left without damselflies
touching the surface of lakewater invisibly, owls
startling booming frogs into silence and, there
at the back end of dark canals, voices whispering
secrets thousands of years old?
Yet it is time. There is never enough of it for
peace. The sun is sinking dangerously low, and
my ride is far to home. I turn the key and the
golden rays, damselflies, clouds, dark ends of
canals, all shrink away, appalled at the roar
of the engine.
The boat returns me to concrete, steel, noise
and chaos. Down a tunnel, and the light at the
end is fluorescent, the mouth of it brickwork.
I don't know when I'll be able to steal away
again to damselflies and gossamer twilight,
but I am longing for it already.
(A debt to Theodor Seuss Geisel and to
Stephen R. Donaldson for the verse is
gratefully acknowledged.) ~ Roger
It's out! And available now! You can be one of the
first to own a copy of Roger's book. Native Waters: A
Few Moments in a Small Wooden Boat
Order it now from
or Barnes & Noble.com.
Roger will also be giving away three autographed copies to
readers. Stay tuned, for an announcement on the Bulletin
Board on that soon.