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Benzie County's Crystal Lake

A meditative morning paddle on Benzie County's Crystal Lake.
  The beach is awash in cool shadows. Tall white pines and ancient cedars cast giant patterns across the sand. Sunlight dances on the water. Morning is waking. 
  I slide my kayak into Crystal Lake and a chevron ripple flows behind me. I dip my paddle into the calm and pull. In moments, I leave the shady beach behind and slip into warm sunshine. Shades of blue stretch out before me: a robin’s egg sky, a lake, luminescent and reflective, a summer morning expanding. Gliding over the shallows, I see clouds of minnows. Spooked, they disappear like slippery ghosts, leaving only a maze of unwary snails along the sandy bottom.
  As I paddle, I create tiny whirlpools that propel me forward. Water runs off my paddle, a chain of water rings trails behind me, widening until they disappear. With each pull, I create my own pathway. I paddle to the drop-off where the water turns deep lapis blue. I peer over the edge. A few sunken logs encrusted with zebra mussels and seaweed lie on the bottom of the lake, the perfect cover for small fish. Even as the water deepens, I see Rock Bass weave in and out of weedy curtains far below. The water is so clear my eyes are fooled watery distances seem to shrink.
  A fellow voyager joins me. A big black dragonfly with gold-leaded wings catches a ride. Perhaps he likes the lime green color of my kayak, or maybe he just needs a rest. Together we glide through the water soaking up the morning sun. I paddle along the edge of the dark blue, tracing a wavy line of water where the lake bottom falls away. Now and then, a few ripples dimple the lake. The morning breathes. I paddle on.
  The rhythm of paddling focuses my attention. I feel the soothing pull of water, the warmth of the sun on my back, a sense of peace. Here, on the water, life is stripped bare and simple. So much falls away. Little puffs of white dot the sky. A seagull feather floats by. I look up and wonder about lost feathers and views from the sky, when high above me I see him. He dips his wing and descends, moving toward me with power and precision. I stop paddling. I’m still as a tree. Watching. Waiting. A bald eagle swoops down to the water, not 20 feet in front of me. His talons reach for a fish floating on the surface. Somehow, he misses. Flying above me, the eagle circles back and returns a second time. This time, his talons expertly encircle the fish. I can see water dripping off the fish as the eagle ascends higher and higher. I don’t move. I hardly breathe until the eagle crests a distant hill and soars out of sight.
  It all happens so quickly the giant shadow of his wings, the focus in his eyes, the swiftness of his flight. Yet in moments, this powerful bird is gone, beyond the lake, beyond the hills home to an aerie, high in the trees, where little eaglets are waiting to be fed. Slowly, I paddle back to the beach. The bow of my kayak creases the wet sand at the water’s edge. I pull my boat to higher ground. Cool sand squishes between my toes. I turn back toward the lake and see its restless spirit emerge. Tiny ripples grow. Real waves are just a breeze away. And already, my day is steeped in magic.