Fire, water and wind! Phenomena experienced the world over, and when managed well, these are invaluable resources. Especially water. Even kids are attracted to water, splashing in the bath tub, running through puddles, paddling in a shallow pool. Finding water in unexpected places is even more fun.
In some parts of the world, the winter snow melt and early spring rains create fresh ponds in wetlands, farm fields and even backyards. In my small town in Ontario, Canada, every kid knew how to find a good spring pond. Some years, the early Spring rains would give way to a late winter freeze. The ponds would turn into vast expanses of smooth ice, another opportunity for fun. That’s a story for another time.
When a pond shows up, you need a raft, boat or canoe to experience the water. My craft of choice was a wooden boat, not really a sea-worthy boat, but still a boat, and big enough for two or three kids. Abandoned by its previous owner along the banks of the Speed River, my older brother who we call Buster saw a future for the old boat. He retrieved the boat, loaded it onto a wagon and pulled it down to the road, across the bridge, up the main street and finally all the way to our back yard. As the spring rains arrived, the ponds appeared and the water levels rose, the boat was hauled one more time, to Huckleberry Marsh, the biggest, closest pond in the neighborhood, and left for the next adventure. Friend Robert and I could hardly wait for the chance to explore Huckleberry Marsh by boat. Easter holidays and early spring rains provided the perfect opportunity.
The day is quiet, grey and overcast with the possibility of showers. I see the waiting boat drawn up on the west bank, stern floating and bow resting gently on the grassy bank. I see no oars or paddles. In the boat is a rusty tin can, used for bailing out water, should the boat leak. I step into the boat. As I turn around to look back, my weight shifts and the bow silently slides off the grass bank. I’m adrift. I sit down instantly. Within seconds, I’m away from shore. “Bail! Bail!”, Friend Robert shouts. I grab the tin can and awkwardly scoop water and dump it overboard. What now? I have no oars or paddles, only a bailing can. I’m seven years of age, and I can’t swim. And the water is cold. Adrift, I keep bailing. My mind goes into overdrive. What can I do. What can anybody do?
I remember a story about water and wind. Aunt Vera is my Sunday School teacher who faithfully teaches stories of the Bible. I remember the story of the parting of the Red Sea, how God caused a strong wind to blow, so much so that the waters parted and the fleeing Israelites were able to cross on dry land, and escape the pursuing enemy.
I pray. “Dear God, please rescue me now like you rescued your people, Israel. Amen”
I sense a gentle breeze. The wind. The wind is picking up. I feel wind on my face. It’s a cold wind. It’s a west wind. Rain does not come from the west. Clearing comes from the west. I watch in amazement. The West wind is picking up and moving Buster’s old boat and me in it steadily across Huckleberry Marsh. I keep bailing.
Friend Robert is not waiting. I see him in the distance, running. He is making his way around the pond, all the while keeping an eye on the boat. I’m wet and cold. I keep bailing and the west wind holds steady. The leaky, old wooden boat with its valuable cargo, me is bound for shore.
Not willing to wait any longer, Friend Robert predicts my landing spot, and is wading out into the cold spring water. He keeps coming, now up to his middle. I sense a lull in the wind. I look for rope to throw, none in the boat.
Not content to stand by and see what happens, Friend Robert keeps coming. The water is getting deeper and Friend Robert is up to his armpits. My bow is within reach. Now on his toes, he lunges forward, grabs the bow, hangs on tight, turns and struggles towards shore. With a gentle pull, the bow is drawn up on the grassy bank. I stand, shaking, stiff, and wet. I’m on safe ground and I’m thankful. Prayer answered.
Stories like this are not immediately recounted upon getting home. That might call for a curfew or some other punishment. Wet socks are quietly hung to dry like it’s an everyday thing. When the story does come out, it’s a managed release, no drama, just two kids playing on a pond in an old boat. The boat? – it survived to sail another day. And prayer? An ever-present resource. More to follow.