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Morning on the lake

How a psalm speaks to kayaker, paddling before dawn.

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Dawn is just coming on. The eastern sky, now pale, grows lighter. The mountains to the east form a dark silhouette. The lake is still. I want to leave it that way, as much as possible, as I quietly slip my kayak onto its waters and glide through the mist that hovers just above the lake's surface. I am alone for the moment, as I begin a four-mile round trip to the far end of this lake and back. In an hour, a slight scattering of fishermen will line the shore, a skiff or two may ride its surface. But for now it is just the lake and the mist and me, as a red-tailed hawk circles overhead.

This is our first summer living in the mountains. Paddling the lake already has become a frequent and favorite way to begin a day. Now, as summer drifts into fall, the mornings feel brisker. I hope to keep up these early-morning rides for as long as possible, although I know that come winter, while the lake will not freeze over, it will be edged with snow. Will I be out on the lake then? I don't know. I savor these moments even more.

It's a good time to reflect, to absorb the near-silence, to notice the deer grazing along the far shore, and to look at the days ahead or contemplate those behind.

As the kayak slips through the water, and the rhythm of the paddling becomes a constant in the background, a line from a psalm surfaces in my thought. "He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul" (23:2, 3). Despite my long familiarity with the passage, it carries fresh meaning. Out here on this lake's still waters, it rings true. These morning outings are renewing. They are, to use the Psalmist's term, restorative. Maybe that's it. Maybe that feeling of being renewed and restored is what draws me here for these early-morning outings.

A trout, seeking breakfast, jumps off to the left of my kayak; a crow caws somewhere in the distance. The sun has broken above the mountain ridge behind me, and its light floods across the lake's surface, transforming it from dark blue to shimmering silver and gold.

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