On a perfect morning, when the Pocomoke is flat calm and the sun is angled toward the water, surrounded by white clouds and blue sky, you could take a photo and not know when it was upside down or right side up. That’s how clear, how sharply lined the reflections are. If a blue heron flies over and you looked down into the tea-colored water, you would see the grayish underside of its wings as sharply as if you were lying on your back and looking up.
Saturday morning was such a morning.
From my kayak, I thought about how magical it would be to paddle into those reflections, to see the cypress and the clouds shining in the water all around my boat. Almost as if I were paddling in the upper story of a deep forest. The trees glimmered in the water in front of me, and I paddled cautiously toward the shoreline, for all it would take would be one cypress knee, just beneath the surface, to punch a hole in my skin boat.
It’s impossible to do! I’m probably revealing my abysmal lack of physics (or would it be optics? Or meteorology?) but the reflection recedes as fast as you paddle toward it. The top of the reflected treeline remained precisely the same distance away from the bow of my kayak as I approached the riverbank. By the time I got to the edge it had disappeared into the forest, like a deer that had come to drink and looked up to see me. The mirrored forest fled my kayak just the same as a turtle dropping off a log.
I tried sneaking up, angling the boat into the incoming tide and sliding obliquely into the reflection. I tried paddling from the upstream and downstream sides, but still the watery forest detected my approach and headed for the shoreline.
The bow of my boat boasts an Inuit symbol, perhaps the Indian root of the common theatrical grin/scowl, a smiling face carved into one side of a round cherry disc, the other a black glower. It’s like the maidenhead on a frigate. My friend and carver Doug Fisher presented it to me when I was nearing completion of the boat. As I pulled my kayak back onto the floating dock I couldn’t help but see that smirk, mocking me. “You idiot,” it said wordlessly. “You should have paid more attention in school.”