It’s Monday morning and I’ve got the day off. It feels odd driving away from the city rather than inbound with the others on their morning commutes, yet it also feels refreshing mixed with a touch of relief. I’m on my own timeline today, nothing to do but what I want to do, and that is to spend the day with my dear friend and cousin Kelli, kayaking the Mississippi River in Prairie du Chien.
Summer was its usual fun busyness, slightly complicated by my drive to make some changes in my career, meaning hours of applications, preparations and interviews. A job search is a job in itself, time consuming and full of ups and downs. Now, this first day of autumn, I’m feeling tired and a bit emotional as I maneuver westbound. I’m waiting on a final answer regarding a great job opportunity—and waiting is hard.
As I hit the road, my Waze app suggests I stay north of Madison and take a combination of Highways 19, 12, 78, 14, 60, 61 and 18 on my 100-mile trip rather than the straight-shot of Highway 18 all the way. I hesitate to take an unknown route, but it’s 7 a.m. and steering clear of the bumper to bumper traffic on Madison’s beltline seems like a good plan.
I follow the prescribed route, not knowing where I am most of the drive. I especially enjoy Highway 60’s scenic course along the Wisconsin River. It’s late September and the trees are a hundred shades of green. I see the first hints of the fall colors to come in the red ferns decorating the roadside ditches.
I feel like I’m running away, from work, from my job search, from everything I should be doing today. Perhaps I should have taken a few more days off this summer, rather than let myself get burned out and to maximum PTO. I had to take a day off or lose it, and today’s break is much needed.
As I drive, I alternate between jiving and singing to the radio and weeping, the stress of the last few months brimming over and leaking down my cheeks. I look forward to spending the day with a friend, relaxing on the water, soaking up the sun.
Once I reach Prairie du Chien, Kelli and I catch up for a while and then head to the river. I take it as a good sign when a bald-headed eagle lands in the tree above our heads as we unload the kayaks. He’s so striking and seems at ease as he watches us push off into the water.
We paddle upstream first, the Mississippi River overflowing its banks and covering the islands of trees.
Kelli and I haven’t seen each other in over a year. We paddle slowly and talk. The water is calm, the shoreline mostly quiet. It feels good to be here, exploring Kelli’s favorite kayaking area. I can see why she likes to come here so often.
As we paddle, I spot another eagle and then shortly later, I see two more sitting high in the tree branches, the trees leafless and dying due to the months of high water. Once we turn around, another eagle soars overhead and I see two more when we pull ashore.
A peaceful drive through the beautiful countryside, a confidante with whom I can talk openly and seven eagle sightings—I feel blessed, like God is watching over me extra carefully today and finding small ways to brighten my spirits.
I drive home feeling refreshed and loved. Thank you, Kelli, for sharing this day with me.
I feel stronger going into work the following day. And I’m ready when the call comes about the job I’ve been praying for. It’s good news.