Angle to Key West: Four Hundred Ninety-Nine (10/22)

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Pine Island, Lake of the Woods – October 22, 2013

The world is all metal-grey clouds and white flurries of snow. The wind sends flakes swirling sideways across the Rainy as I drift toward the mouth, toward Lake of the Woods, toward the last water of the trip. After seven-thousand miles, the end feels so close. It feels inevitable.

Boats filled with fishermen clog the river. Heavy coats, hats pulled tight, lines in the water. No one talks much. Nods and slight waves. Breath like smoke. We are all half-frozen.

I stretch my hands open and closed around the paddle. My fingertips numb in and out of consciousness. I wonder how long it will be until I feel warm again. Three days. Four. A week.

I watch a truck cough clouds of warm exhaust as it drags a boat out of the water. Two men in heavy coats tighten straps. Their breath steams in the air. I recognize the thin wooden dock stretched out below them. I remember the woman who stood there so long ago and stared at me with raised eyebrows.

“How long have you been out in that thing?” the she asked.

“Four days,” I said.

“And where are you headed?” she said.

“Key West,” I said.

She looked at me for a moment, digesting the words, her face unmoved.

“What’s the longest you’ve been out in one of them before?” she asked.

“Four days,” I said.

I wonder where she is now. I wonder what she’d think when the answer changed to four hundred and ninety-nine, when four days was not all I had ever done, but all I had left.

4 responses to “Angle to Key West: Four Hundred Ninety-Nine (10/22)

  1. Absolutely love this post. From my spot in Louisiana, it’s a good reminder of the cold that’s settling up north. As a writer, love the way this brings everything full circle – well done!

  2. What an amazing journey of the body, of the mind, and of the spirit. How four days turned into countless days and, for many of us readers of your blog, a daily reminder of life’s possibilities. And ditto Ashley’s comment too.

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