Kayaking with glowsticks

The other night we kayaked slowly into the dark with glowsticks around our wrists and paddles. The water was glassy smooth. Boats at night should have a red light to port, green light to starboard, and a white light in back, so I bought green and pink glowsticks. It was the perfect night for it, just after the Perseid meteor shower, warm, with no wind or mist. The kids were whispering with respect for the awesomeness of being out in the boats at night. As we headed up the harbor to the creek we talked about the stars, what it would be like to ride a giant manta ray, and the reflections of the masts in the water around us. I can’t remember all the things we talked about. It was nice to feel like we were all sharing this moment of appreciation for doing an unusual thing. It’s not quite like walking around the block. Getting in a boat always feels unusual!

That night trip wasn’t one of those times where I as the grownup was saying “Look! It’s pretty! HEY KIDS LOOK. I SAID LOOK!!!!! OMG!” It was so beautiful that they noticed without any prompting. We stared at the San Mateo Bridge like it was made of stars. I felt proud of them and their boating skills — and their noticing-the-world skills.

There was no way to take a picture so you’ll have to imagine the stillness and motion of the water, the shadowy masts overhead, and our dreamy looks as we leaned back to watch the sky.


After today’s brutal heat wave I had the idea that we’d kayak as soon as the sun went down. I cut Moomin’s hair. He hacked at the bangs before I got into the room, so I can’t answer for the results. At least it will be cooler on his neck and forehead! He read some comic books. Then we had an argument.

“Mom! I forgot to study!”
“Well, study tomorrow. It’s hot. It’s after 8pm. Let’s kayak now that’s it’s cooler out and see the moon.”
“But I have to study for the social studies test on Friday!”
“Oh come on! Come in the kayak with me!”
“No! Studying!”
“Okay, 5 minutes.”
“No, 10 minutes.”
“Look, Mom, how about 7 minutes. It’s a compromise.”
“Okay! The kayak will still be here tomorrow night! Study away! Then why don’t you watch Clone Wars for a while!”

Moomin enjoys the absurdity of my telling him not to do his homework or to eat more ice cream. I enjoy playing those scenes up for all they’re worth when they happen. In real life, I’m a fairly stern parent. You’re laughing. I can tell. But it’s true!

So I went out alone to the kayak, a bit heavily on two crutches. Sometimes I make it out there without a cane, sometimes with a cane. The last few days it’s two crutches for sure. I really appreciate my heavy duty forearm crutches with ergonomic grips and “Torpedo tip” rubber things at the bottom. They’re heavy and inconvenient to carry around, but don’t hurt my hands so much. As you may know from experience, with two crutches it’s much harder to carry things. Today my neighbor, a kid in high school, carried in my groceries in the 100 degree heat… But in a pinch, I would carry them in with a cart or multiple trips with backpacks, thumping down the floating dock and up the steep ramp.

I laid the crutches down on the dock and hopped into my kayak. Low tide, and the heat made it sulfurous down there, super marshy-smelling. Once I’m paddling out I’m free and nimble. Nothing marks me as different from anyone else in the way I move around.

My neighbor Brian from Slip 2 was in his kayak with his little dog, Rudder, perched in his lap. He was fully kitted out in life vest, hat, sunglasses, submersible VHF radio, and who knows what else in there! He was gossiping with my other neighbor in Slip 9. We hung out for a while probably being too loud! Brian had been out past the Robert G. Brownlee about 3/4 mile down the creek. I was impressed he brought his VHF radio with him and listens to what the Coast Guard is talking about! Cool! Our other neighbors Buckley and Wendy were out on their deck too as they always are this time of night. People were cooking dinner up on deck on grills now that the sun was finally down.

pete's harbor

As I noodled slowly towards the creek I thought about how during the day, the boats all just look like boats. At night, I can tell which ones are inhabited. The lights come on. People are moving around inside, listening to radios or watching TV. The boats look very homey then with the lights glowing & reflected in the water. All my stress from the day just disappeared and I felt full of happiness.

The sunset was glowing over Bair Island and the Oracle buildings. I didn’t go very far. Moomin would worry. The moon was amazing. Everything about the night and the water changes every few minutes as I looked. I think part of the peaceful feeling was from the processing-overload my brain gets into, interpreting all the changes of light and currents, tide and wind. Everything familiar looked different.

It’s corny, but I love being out here because it’s like being on the edge of the world. A very small, insignificant edge.

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