I awoke before the alarm, in the black-dark, knowing it was a half hour more before I would truly have to step out of bed onto the cold floor and rise eyes open before the day.
You know how sweet it seems to savor those last possible moments of sleep and then the rude harshness of having to awaken after you’ve drifted off so easily into slumber? That’s what I wanted to avoid, and so I got up, got dressed, and tried not to convince myself to skip rowing.
Today, I rowed in a quad for the first time, after two years of avidly rowing in eights, on the Detroit River. The morning was cool, inviting, the sweet kiss of fall on the air. No air nor heat necessary inside my car, and I slid into the gravel parking space at the Detroit Boat Club easily, shifting to park, shutting off the engine.
The silence you embrace in the early morning is silken, soothing. The water wasn’t as still as I had expected – wind rippled the surface, geese squawked on the grass. One coach cradled a paper coffee cup between her hands.
The sun was climbing above the horizon as I arrived, but it was a fiery orange ball against a pink painted sky. On the Detroit shore, behind what we could see, puffy smoke clouds lifted up. A house burning?
It took a while before we could smell it, not the attracting smokiness of a barbecue or hot dogs on a stick over a campfire. No, it was the scent of something threatening, of something sad, of a turn of events we wish we could stop but knew we could not.
The other day, on a long hot highway drive, I listened to a TED talk about why people lie. Know how to detect them? One key is they use formal language – I did not cheat! – as opposed to quick, easy contractions – I didn’t!
We rowed across the river to the Detroit side, then paralleled the shore until we passed the mayor’s mansion. The coach in the boat, a kind, cool young man who was teaching us all to scull, spun the boat while we rested.
Back at the dock, I commented that it was far easier to set the boat in a quad than in an eight. “I was setting the boat for all of us,” the coach said with a smile.
Of course it was easier, then. It wasn’t us. It was the generosity of one for the comfort of the whole. You know how someone talented and endowed can hold the space for everyone else? It was that kind of morning.