I’m just back from a writer’s conference. Like all such conferences I’ve attended, talented and published writers mingle and greet each other warmly, reminders of the gap between the insiders and the rest of us. I’m in that universe of acolytes who draw near to the flame, the wannabes.

When I started writing, I imagined days of eating the sun for breakfast. Then naturally, as easy as breathing, spending the rest of the morning spilling sunlight onto page after page. Instead, I found a cosmos-size gap between vision and reality. And yet I persist in that vacuum of space known as hope. Hoping someday to realize the first half of the plan, to dine upon a star. Surely if I eat stardust, magic might fall like crumbs onto the page?

I returned from the conference determined in that grim way bred by perseverance in the face of adversity.

The sun rose and set, rose and set on my grim determination. Finally, my husband pried me out of my studio to go kayaking. It was one of those nearly perfect early fall afternoons. The morning started frosty, but by afternoon the sun’s rays gathered like friends and neighbors, filling the church choir with warm intentions. The dappled yellow rays harmonizing perfectly with the yellow tinge of leaves lining the lake shore.

We arrived at the lake later than planned because I struggled to let go of obligation and drudgery. While I wrestled with the muse out on the lake, the wind picked up.

“Paddle into the wind,” Harrison directed. “We’ll head to the leeward shore, out of the wind.” I often wait for the auspicious moment to arrive, but my husband, no believer in perfection, creates moments. After a challenging paddle across the lake, we reached calm water. It’s a small lake. Some, more abundantly blessed with water, might call it a pond. Locals here call it Big Woods Lake. I suppose visitors chuckle at the wood lot we call “Big Woods.” But lake and woods live up to their names in our affection, even if they are small in scale.

We paddled happily for over an hour, seeing box turtles sunning themselves. A blue heron fished in the shadows. We spied several waterfowl we didn’t recognize, a sure sign that winter migration is starting.

We paddled without intention or expectation, simply for the joy of shared company on a fine day. The sun so bright it blinded me to ambition or skill. The light of living replacing the dark emptiness of a hope built on ambition.

The table set with a small boat, a pond with woods, and good company; the sun ate me with relish.