She arrived at the four-way stop where a right turn would take her to her son’s house. As she shifted into first to turn the corner, the aftermath of a recent news story – the sign, ribbons, fresh flowers piled on the sidewalk – came into focus across the street. A half-block further she saw new balloons tied onto the signpost serving as a memorial site for nearly four years now. Candles surrounded the base, likely also replaced after the recent run of storms, one bomb cyclone after another blowing down trees and manifesting waterfalls where none had existed before. Today, though, today the wind had calmed and the sun beamed wide across the county illuminating flowers and balloons and candles and the possibility of spending time on the water, a place she hadn’t been in weeks. It’s like I’m circling and circling and can’t land, she’d told a friend who’d asked how she was. 

They carried the kayaks down the ramp from the parking lot to the launch platform. This side of the island sheltered them from the breeze that had come up, the water’s surface glassy in the harbor. Fishing boats and sailboats of various sizes and states of use lined the docks. She didn’t notice that they only had one paddle until she lowered the kayak onto the water and prepared to scooch in. Oh weird, said her son. Usually the paddles were in the kayaks – that’s how they kept them. He jogged back up to the storage container that served as a locker for eight watercraft, including their two kayaks and one stand-up paddleboard. It’s not here, he called down. Dang, she said. Someone must have borrowed it. They carried one of the kayaks back to the container, pulled down the SUP for her to use instead. She would have preferred the kayak, which would have cut through the increasing breeze more easily, but whatever, mostly she just ached to be on the water in the sunshine. The day before, driving over the bridges at high tide, the desire to jettison responsibility, to skip out from the computer’s glare and into the sun, swelled within her – I can feel it in my body, she told her husband later, repeating the words the next morning. This morning. The one with the flowers and balloons and candles and idiotic beauty. The way the bay sprawled out toward the mountains, the mountains with all their trees reaching for the sky, the sky stretching clear from side to side, corner to corner, as if to say, What rain? What storms? 

She had seen the evidence though. Her wifi had only just been restored after three weeks, it taking that long for the cable company to send a guy out to fix the wires the wind had torn off as the first of the storms had raged. She’d seen the photos of trees down and farmlands flooded, and driven past utility poles toppled sideways on her way to town and over rivers swollen and racing to an ocean so overcome with energy it had stripped the beaches of sand, shaped the sloping dunes into cliffs too tall to clamber down or scramble up. For all the drama, however, the county’s rainfall total stood at just a smidge over average. People thought the weather was worse than it statistically was, an effect of too many mild years, this forgetting what living was like. 

If she hadn’t been standing on a paddle board, paddling against the tide, she wouldn’t have noticed the breeze, but even a light headwind makes for some chop on the water, especially when one’s body serves as a sail. The board wobbled under her feet. She considered dropping to her knees, dug in instead, listening to her son’s chatter from the kayak, struggled to remember the name of the type of seabird he pointed out. Those birds are cool, he said. She wore a pfd over her sweater, but he basked shirtless in the sunshine, hungry for a tan, open to the weather. As they turned the corner, the far island blocked the wind and she felt the board find a groove, going with the tide now, gliding.