On Monday, I went paddling on Kinderhook Lake.
It should have been a bit naive of me to expect the lake to be serene, peaceful and calm on the first weekend of Summer, but honestly it just never occurred to me. Why was it naive? Because it’s the very same lake that I spent countless weekends on as a kid, zooming around behind my father’s speedboat–clutching, grasping onto an inflatable raft–screaming and giggling and panting for breath. Two decades later, little has changed. So I stuck to the edges.
There are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore on Kinderhook Lake. There’s a beautiful little backwater on the northwest side of the lake where last year I saw a hunting osprey. And then way up at the tippy-top of the lake is a marshy area of very shallow water, hidden snags and tall grasses, perfect for nesting red-winged blackbirds, a few of whom were very unhappy with my presence in their quiet, motorboat-free idyll. Over on the northeastern edge is a hidden little cove of lily pads, sleepy turtles and purple and yellow irises.
But it’s a big lake to tackle without a motor and so eventually, to get back to the boat launch you’ve got to head out into open waters; a daunting thought when you can see the sun glinting off the Coors Light cans in the boat-drivers’ hands. So I paddle hard. Very hard. Head down, muscles pumping, legs braced. I glance up from time-to-time to make sure I’m still heading in the right direction, but mostly I listen for the whine of an approaching motor.
And that’s how I hit a turtle. I was out in the literal middle of the lake, paddling hard, when I glanced up and thought to myself, “Now, what the hell is a rock doing out here in the middle of the lake?!” But there was nothing I could do to avoid it. And then I hit it and with a tiny dull thump it disappeared under the water. I jammed my paddle into the water to stop Big Blue (that’s what I call my kayak) and pulled around. And that’s when, I swear, I saw a tiny, turtley fist rise from the water and shake in my general direction and heard a gurgly, weedy voice rasp “Ingrate!“