Meditation #3 — Time on the Water

by Don N. Johnson

I mark the passage of time, especially during the warmer months, by boats. Others chart time by their travels, health crises, job growth or change, family change, or any number of things. I remember the boats I’m on during any season: an M-20 racing scow on Lake Minnetonka, a mahogany Chris Craft on Bay lake, a 37-foot Cabin-Cruiser on the St. Croix, a pontoon boat on Bay Lake, a 36-foot Santa Cruz sailboat on Lake Michigan, a 500-foot cruising ship in the Mediterranean, The "Badger" ferryboat from Ludington, Michigan to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, a 16-foot Hobie Cat in Door County, and a high-powered sea-do jet-bike on Lake-of-the-Woods, Ontario.

The differences among boats are profound: from the quiet of a Hobie-Cat to the noise of a jet-bike, from the simplicity of a pontoon boat to the complexity of the Ludington car-ferry. Some boats hold one person—others a thousand. Some are powered by wind, others by gas, still another by coal. Some go out for minutes and others for weeks.

And, as anyone who hangs around boats can attest, opinions are firmly held about relative strengths and weaknesses. Sailors cannot understand why anyone would stink up the air and make such a racket with a power boat. And power boaters shake their heads at the a-mount of time, money, and effort sailors invest to go slowly and indirectly from point-to-point. Boundary Water canoe purists decry the attempts of fishermen to shatter their silence with even the smallest of outboards.

Yet, we all love the water. The mystery of buoyancy attracts and compels us to rivers, lakes, and oceans. That we actually float on the shifting, moving stuff amazes us. That which we don’t understand and in which we can’t live, which threatens to kill us in times of storm, still draws us with our boats.

We glide, stroke, roar, and tack across it. And when the day is over, the shift is done, and the race finished, we sit and look out on the water on which we just finished floating. We sit on docks, decks, and porches and just look at the waves—at sunsets and sunrises. And we are pleased and at peace by the waters.