As we launched our canoes on Lac de Chalain in the late afternoon, a thick milky veil clouded my vision. How did we end up here, in this perfect moment, on this perfect day? We never planned to come to the Jura Mountains in France.
When the weather turned in Normandy, we were off and we picked a spot that we could get to in a day. We didn’t know anything about the region but we knew enough about France to know that it would be spectacular.
The Lac de Chalain is a natural glacier fed lake and has been visited for centuries. The first traces of man living on its shores date from 3,600 years BC. There are parts of the lake where on a clear day, you can see remains of ancient civilizations that are now archeological gems.
Because of this, the lake and its perimeter is a protected zone (the use of motorized boats is prohibited) which contributes to the tranquility of the area. It is the largest of the Jura lakes and it is radiant.
We decided it was the perfect time for the boys to have their own “vessel.” Every other time we have been in a boat, one of us has been with them. This was the perfect setting for that important right of passage, like the first bike, or the first day of school. When they said, a bit hesitantly, “Can we go in our own boat?” We replied, “Of course.”
There were moments of arguing, synchronizing paddling without going in circles, and trying to work together to gain traction but it was only minutes before the proud smiles dominated. They had systems, they were laughing and talking about their adventures in the past year, while pointing out fish and loons and birds.
Like only children can, they started dreaming about their whole life on the water because they loved the moment they were in with such passion. What if we had a house right up there and we rowed every day? What if we knew every corner of this lake and we gave tours? What if we found another civilization at the bottom of the lake that no one has discovered yet?
They cut across the water as the sun was dipping and they had a new sense of self. As they ventured further and further away, it got easier for them and harder for me. I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes:
A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary. ~ Dorothy Canfield Fisher