Expedition - Part III

Day 3: Head Harbor, Isle Au Haut

As I wake up, I can feel a day of use in my muscles, in the palms of my hands, leathered by sun and the feel of an oar. By the third day, expedition has seeped into all the crevices of mind and body. Both feel at ease in a way they don’t feel on land, though tired. I savor lying swaddled in the warmth of my sleeping bag while cool morning air and a hint of dew caress my cheeks. Tucked up in the stern, I still get the daylight peeking through an open triangle at the end of the tarp. I usually like to peel it back and, still an encased burrito, wedge myself onto the stern thwart, my back against one inwale and my feet on the other. I lay there, looking around, taking up sun, listening to the shallow breath of the sleeping bodies around me. They are quiet and still. The early morning is mine, a precious moment alone.

It’s easy to forget what I look like on expedition. I lose awareness of my body in some sense; I’m very aware of the physical sensations in my hands and arms, across my skin, the contact of my feet with the boat, but I lose the layer of removal that usually exists, the camera frame that I’m often looking at myself through from the outside. I lose self consciousness and become just a body, with legs and arms, hands and feet, sensing and responding to the external environment.

This is a feeling I don’t experience often. Perhaps, it’s a feeling that’s even disappearing from common experience. There is almost always some conduit for external feedback - a mirror, a window, the words or gaze of another person. And now, technology has amplified this experience, created a host of new ways in which we receive feedback about our external selves.

Day 3: Isle Au Haut to Swan’s Island

We came in fog and left in fog. In the dark last night, I could hear waves slapping against the rock, hollowly echoing between the shores. I was tired, hungry, and disoriented - there is something very strange about having no visual sense of your surroundings and at best, a muddled audial sense. At one point, the headlights of a car illuminated the smoky silhouette of a small, square house on the hill. I could make out the edges of the rocks. It was enough time to discern the narrowness of the harbor. But then the light was gone and we were thrust back into obscurity.

When we awoke, the other boat was tipped on its side, ever so gently. They had misjudged the depth and the distance from shore in the thick darkness. I didn’t notice until I saw Daniel and Owen walking along the shore, their heads down, quietly contemplating, then conferring in low voices.

And now, here we are, still in the fog. We weave in and out, finding reprieve in small pockets of light only to be socked in again, rowing slowly in the light wind, hoping that a small breath of air will lift our limp sails. The only reprieve is in singing.

We are briefly joined by a Minke whale. The world stops, the rowing pauses, and every set of hands grips the inwale as each set of eyes looks out transfixed on the disturbed patch of water. It comes up between the two boats, breathing heavily, floating at the surface for a moment and then receding into the steely water. It comes up two more times, each time closer. Anf then it’s gone, swept away by the fog and the quiet that close in again.