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  • It was a rainy Friday morning on Lake Champlain in late July 2009. Also the last time that I slept outside under an open sky. I had slept next to my kayak on the rocky beach of a lonely island out in the lake. Sometime around 4 am, my dreams of other watery things had blended seamlessly into light drizzle falling on my face.

    I awoke gently to the kind of calm that I've only ever found on an island with no one else around. Like being alone up a mountain in the woods but with a whole other elemental divide to separate from the world. I was only a few miles from the shore of the lake, but I may as well have been a thousand miles from everything going on there. The low overcast skies reflected back just a hint of Burlington city lights from around the other side of the island.

    I made a large mug of hot tea and sat quietly to take in my last day on the lake. I had just paddled and sailed more than 50 miles over four days. Most of the days had been windy and rainy with some good blustery storm surges and choppy waves four or, maybe even, five feet high at times. Now, in my pre-dawn contemplation, I was happy to take in the peace of flat water and the cold and somehow soothing drizzle that was sifting down.

    I condensed the pieces of my meager camp back into their hatches, took a moment to appreciate my stony bed, slid down into the familiar curves of my boat, and pushed off again to float away into the pitch blackness of the lake.

    I paddled the long way around the island to avoid electrical light as long as I could. From the middle of the lake, I was able to make out the faintest hints of sunrise filtering greyly down over the Green Mountains. The mountains themselves weren't really visible as they were mostly shrouded by the overcast. But the lights of Burlington were now in view, as was the North Beacon of the Burlington Harbor's breakwater.

    As much as I was intent on my return home that morning, I found myself lingering quietly at that spot on the water. There I was sitting alone on the surface of the lake with 300 of feet of water beneath me and miles to go toward shore. And it was all just right.
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