Places of Peace
September 18th, 2014
Essays by Joey Dickinson and Nic Stoltzfus
Ever since my first taste of the coastal dune lakes on Lake Powell for World Paddle for the Planet Day 2013, I’ve felt an overwhelming sense of tranquility whenever I’m on any one of the lakes, even if I’m working! However, one evening in particular stands out when it comes to feeling peace on the lakes. One day after filming all day in the peak-summer sun, running all across town wildly to capture both interviews and landscape images, Elam, Nic and I found ourselves lying in our freezing cold hotel room, myself on the carpeted floor, with late afternoon light still peering through the window shades. At least a half an hour of silence was broken by Elam, “I’m going out on the boat. Anyone else want to come?” His proposal was answered by even more silence, and I finally gave in, “Sure, I’m coming.” We had been filming in Walton County an awful lot at the time, making the hour and a half trip from Blountstown and back at least once a week, and although we’d been filming the lakes seemingly incessantly, we’d not actually been on the water in recent memory, and we brought the Scandy-White boat down with us this time for that sole reason. I wasn’t going to let fatigue and my intense lust for rest get between myself and that rejuvenating water. Barely able to get up off of that carpet, I knew that in just a couple of minutes, I’d be woken up by some good ole H2O. Nic decided to stay back and get some interview questions ready for the next day, and Elam and I staggered out of the hotel to Lake Powell, and launched the boat. As we began to head straight toward the middle of the lake, the engine began to spit and cry. No way.
The engine kept from shaking so long as we stayed under a certain speed, so we made our way to the outfall at a very steady pace. Although all we wanted to do was open up the engine and take off, feel some wind in our hair and zip around the lake like a playground, we were forced to slow down, turning that playground into a peaceful cathedral. As the sun started to set, orange patches of light backlit the dark blue rain-clouded sky. The wind died down almost suddenly and the entire lake was as flat as a mirror. At a certain point, the outfall became too shallow, and I jumped out into the water, towing the boat by a rope. I’m not sure why, but this filled me with one of the most peaceful feelings I’ve ever had. It was completely silent except for the smooth hushing of the gulf, and Elam and I only exchanged words to safely get the boat through the shallow patch. We pulled the boat of on the sand to walk around in the outfall and enjoy the sunset. The only other people in the outfall with us were three boys, catching minnows with their hands, staring imminently into the still water. You might have seen the image I captured as they waited for the small fish to swim into their palms. Everything was still. All of the fatigue that I was feeling had vanished and I felt completely restored. After the sun had set, we didn’t want to go back in, but alas, we had to finally get some much-needed rest. One never wants to get off the water of a dune lake, especially after an experience like that. All I could do was smile because it happened, and because of the fact that I felt completely at peace because of it, and wait for the next time I’d be able to come back.
What is the place I feel most peaceful when I am down in Walton County? I don’t know if it is a location as much as a state of mind. And that state of mind comes about when I am walking and talking with a dear friend. Walking and talking with myself is good, too, but that produces a different state of mind (as the old saw goes, “It’s okay to talk to yourself…as long as no one answers!”). The place I enjoy walking and talking the most is at Topsail Hill Preserve. There are miles of trails and plenty of wildlife to enjoy along the way. Plus, it is pretty quiet, so it is easy to hear what my friend has to say. Two memories come to mind when I think of achieving this state of peace.
Late one night Dad was getting ready to bike out from our cabin at Topsail to Lake Campbell to film a time-lapse of the Milky Way arcing over the lake. Joey and I decided to walk with him a bit before he biked down to the lake by himself (we weren’t staying up with him because we were planning on waking up early the following day and filming the sunrise). The three of us walked together for awhile and then Dad got on his bike and rode off. As Joey and I walked back the stars were shining bright in the sky above, the crickets buzzed, and our conversation hummed. We didn’t talk about anything in particular, just whatever came to mind. At one point we stopped and laid down to look up at the stars. I could see a bat fly over from time to time. Neither of us said a word, and all felt right with the world.
The second memory I have is when my Mom and my sister came down to stay with me at a Topsail cabin for a few days in August. My sister had not visited Topsail yet, and I was eager to show her the coastal dune lakes where we had been filming for many months. Laura just got married May of this year and moved out to Los Angeles soon after the wedding. She hadn’t visited home since then, so I was excited to catch up. One afternoon we packed up all our swimming gear and started walking down the main trail towards the beach. It was a VERY hot day in August, so walking was a bit of a chore. However, we walked the trail all the way down to the beach and she told me all about life in LA and the how things have changed since she got married, and I pointed out all sorts of plants and animals as we walked down. That moment everything was perfect: here I am with one of my best friends just walking and talking. That is peace for me.