The sun pours down from the sky, white light spilling into our vision as we row north. Those who have sunglasses are fortunate; those who don’t are simply unlucky for the day. As we reach forward, eyes are trained on the man in front of us, intent on mimicking his shoulder blades, his movements matching our own. The sun bathes us in its light, our white skin even paler in the spring glow than what the winter turned it. With a glance downwards, the boat can be seen sliding over what seems to be black glass, jumping away from the swirling puddles as the dark waters rush along the gunwales. The sight is magnificent, astounding, and in this moment, one of the most beautiful sights that could ever be remembered.
The piece ends and restarts on coach’s command; we leave the straightaway behind as he tells us to row on, traveling past the edge of all things familiar. Following the black water, the marsh grasses retreat, and the buildings only ever seen from a distance at last are before our gaze. We’ve never done lightweight before, and maybe that’s the key. “Through the mirror, then, and your chance to shatter it,” someone once told me, and I remember these words as our oars break the water’s dark mirror. Perhaps this is what they meant, and this is our chance. With all of our quirks and oddities, maybe we were never meant for the popular title, and after years of victory being just out of our grasp, this is our opportunity to shatter that empty handed reflection that has been staring back at us.
Past the shadow of the traffic clogged bridge, we cruise towards the inlet, our fatigued bodies lightly stroking the water as we turn the boat; with the grant of a moment of rest, we see the docks run down the island toward Longport bridge, which despite its proximity, still hangs in a distant haze. The inlet flows out toward the ocean beyond, the sound of the surf crashing on the shores reaching our ears. We may not know what winning feels like, but the content of listening to that soothing rhythm puts us at peace nevertheless. A shiver of excitement runs down the boat as we protest to coach to row further, regardless of the danger. With the shake of a head, however, we turn around, ready to head home.
The sun is low when we reach home, and as coach’s launch stalls out, we sit patiently, together watching the sky shift from a golden yellow to the black and silver night, as the lights along the roads that cross the marshes shine brightly in the spring evening. I haven’t seen a sunset like that in years, and I am glad to have viewed it with you guys. It was an honor rowing in that lightweight 8; there is nothing like seeing something out through the very end, and with what we did win, it proved we shattered the mirror.
An old African proverb states “If you want to go fast, travel alone. If you want to go far, travel together.” Like the black water, our minds stilled as we pulled the boat out of the bay, but that is what settled under the surface as we left. It takes a boat to pull a boat- and despite all of our differences and the setbacks that occurred, those mirror fragments came together to form a satisfying image, as we-at last- proved ourselves.