The people at Omega Institute are so friendly, I am offered a boat by a returning paddler before I can drag my green one to the water of Long Pond. I thank the young woman and climb into her kayak. I feel like a pea in a pod in my moving fiberglass capsule. Off I go alongside the bold strokes of the swimmers, and then beyond the roped-off swimming area to round the bend of the bay. The rain has stopped, the water is calm, and the sun is warm on my shoulders. A half moon can be seen between clouds.
I paddle toward the lily pads on this June afternoon. Unlike some boats, kayaks can glide through and even over the pads. I can go as shallow or as deep as I like. The blooming lilies have attracted insects and each yellow petal is speckled with them. The slick green pads relax on the surface, soaking up the sun, while the small, reddish ones underneath strain upwards for the light. Sunfish glimmer under the hull of the boat.
My new friend, Bree, taking Nancy Aronie’s writing workshop with me, told me to look for signs of beaver on this side of the lake. I scour the horizon for felled trees as I think about our assignment to write something about “wedding bands.” That is our prompt to get us writing, as the title of the workshops says, “from the heart.”
I almost give up on finding the beavers’ home, but then I enter a secluded alcove rimmed by their dam. The water trickling over it makes its own song and the frogs thrum along. I float peacefully now among white water lilies, beautiful and with no bugs. They remind me of lotus flowers that emerge pristine and perfect, no matter how mucky their source. Lotus plants stay so clean because they have tiny bumps that repel stains to their character. They shrug off trouble. I should be so wise.
My knuckles are getting bigger lately and my wedding rings no longer fit. They feel too tight. I took them off and left them in my jewelry box. Coming to Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York is my first trip without them since I married my husband in 1983. I can put on a sapphire ring I inherited from his mother when I want something on that finger, when it looks too naked. I’m not trying to hide that I’m married. But I don’t feel any urgency to wear the gold band and diamond ring. I feel okay without them.
For instance, I can grip my paddle with nothing to dig into my digits. Is this a bad sign for my marriage that I am so comfortable without the bands of our bond? I think it’s the opposite. The rings are a potent symbol, but they’re not what keep us together. They are not so essential.
We seem too different to be compatible, but here he comes. (I can almost see him on the lake though he is home in Illinois.) My fisherman husband rows his boat and I propel my kayak and, to paraphrase Rumi, somewhere beyond right doing and wrong doing, we meet and are refuge for each other. Donald and I met at a Buddhist meeting. We had a Buddhist wedding, complete with sake. Each day we sit side by side, chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and recite a portion of the Lotus Sutra. That is our practice, thrumming along together to the heartbeat of the universe. That is essential.
Above Long Pond, a territorial red-wing blackbird swoops by my head, so I take the hint and turn the boat around. I head for shore.