Complementary Views by Ronald Mackay

River Ouse with Peter Elmhirst 15 Aug 2021

You may be forgiven for assuming that because we live on Rice Lake we must own a pontoon or at least a boat with a motor to putter about in.

We don’t.

Despite Viviana’s coaxing I’ve remained uncompromising. Internal combustion engines exasperate me. Until I was over thirty, I never owned a car, though I often rented one.

Cautiously, over time, I acquired additional noisy machines – a generator, a lawnmower, a snow-blower – but only because rural life demanded them.

We enjoy the sights Rice Lake offers from the land. Spectacular dawns, gentle sunsets. We delight in viewing the river and the lake from the seasonal gravel road that wends its silent way from Hastings to Keene. Crimson in the fall, in winter a study in black and white.

Fall colours near Keene, Ontario

But just two days ago, my perspective changed.

“How about Sunday afternoon on our pontoon boat?” Anne asked.

Viviana didn’t give me time to think twice, so enthusiastic was she. And so, at high noon, four of us sat comfortably as Peter eased the pontoon away from Elmhirst’s dock.

Immediately, I was granted an alternative view of the world. From standing onshore looking out at the sparkling water and the tree-clad islands, we were dawdling comfortably a hundred yards offshore admiring the land that had been settled both late and soon. Farmhouses we recognized, old grey barns we admired, cornfields and grazing we were familiar with – and all from a different perspective.

Novelist Anne Marshall 15 Aug 2021

In my mind’s eye, I could create the complementary view and as I did so, I grasped a more nuanced, more intricate and deeper appreciation of the landscape that I thought I knew so well.

As I relished the spread of fuller understanding, a different thought struck me: that this complementary perspective is what enriches our minds when we approach problems and ask questions from different points of view in pursuit of understanding and growth — and by so doing, misunderstandings, even falsehoods may be exposed. My previous land-based perspective was only a fragment of the truth. We need the complementary floating perspective to appreciate the larger, fuller picture.

The motion of the boat and Peter’s account of the long and diverse history of settlement brought us back into the beauty of the here and now.

Wending our silent way up the Ouse River with kingfishers darting to guide the way, water lilies bobbing within touching distance and the occasional canoeist raising her hand in cordial greeting, we absorbed the experience with barely a word.

For all four of us, that Sunday afternoon, the water and the land, the realities of the offshore and the onshore, offered the sacred and the transcendental as complementary truths through which we human beings come to know ourselves, others, and the wonderful world we inhabit.

Novelist Anne Marshall and Viviana on the River Ouse 15 Aug 2021

19 Comments Add yours

  1. Diane Taylor says:

    Love the concept of a new perspective, and in this case, a new view of the land from offshore. Sounds like adventure to me.

    1. ronaldmackay says:

      You have a great deal more boating experience than I do, Diane! Yes, it is valuable to gain a new perspective!

  2. dmwauthor says:

    Elmhirst is a special place to enjoy all year. Glad you got to see the scenery from the perspective of being on the
    the water.

    1. ronaldmackay says:

      Elmhirst’s Resort is a very special place, Donna, I agree with you. Being on the water is a beautiful experience.

  3. I love this article, Ron. A sense of wonder and good common sense, all in a single piece. Each view brings its own beauty, allowing us to marvel at what was there but unappreciated. And that change in perspective – so useful for photographers, writers and other artists – is also important to our knowledge, attitudes and decision-making. Bravo.

    1. ronaldmackay says:

      Thank you, Cynthia. It’s important that we are able to see things from different perspectives. Not just for us creative writers, but for everyone. Thereby we become a little more understanding and a little wiser.

  4. Nila Mendoza says:

    I was moved by these lines adorned with poetic images that spring from a sensitive soul that knows how to appreciate nature. Thank you, Mackay, for taking us by the hand on this unforgettable walk, full of such beauty. Big hug.

  5. Nila Mendoza says:

    I was moved by these lines adorned with poetic images that spring from a sensitive soul that knows how to appreciate nature. Thank you for taking us by the hand on this unforgettable walk, full of such beauty. Big hug.

    1. ronaldmackay says:

      Thank you for the compliments, Nila. Abrazos!

  6. Euan Lindsay-Smith says:

    Thank you, Ronald, for reminding us, in such a poetic manner, just how important it is for us to be able and willing to see things from a different perspective. Not only does it increase our experience and enjoyment, but it, hopefully, encourages others to be less entrenched in their views.

    1. ronaldmackay says:

      Yes, Euan. It does us all good to see things from different perspectives from time to time instead of digging ourselves into only the one we prefer. Thanks for your comment.

  7. “Immediately I was given an alternative view of the world.” Isn’t this what all writer’s crave. Congratulations Ron for naming it.

  8. ronaldmackay says:

    You are right, Kate. It’s what we seek and what we must strive to protect in these monocular times! Thank you.

  9. Marylyn White says:

    That was beautiful Ron,yes,going slowly in a pontoon boat enables you to capture the beauty of the land and the water around you..❤️❤️👍😎

    1. ronaldmackay says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, Marylyn. Thanks for your comment. Best wishes!

  10. mariearden says:

    My husband Ed purchased and fixed up an old aluminum boat with a 6 hp motor so he could fish Rice Lake this summer. I really enjoyed the putt-putting along the Bewdley shoreline one day in July as he cast out and caught sunfish. It was quite peaceful and truly another world. We plan to do it again this week. We hope to launch this time from river by the north shore. Is that the Ouse?

    1. ronaldmackay says:

      Yes, Marie, you are right. That is the Ouse. It’s well worth you and Ed exploring in your boat. Enjoy it. Best wishes.

  11. Val says:

    What a lovely post, Ronald. I always feel that being on the water is a parallel dimension, but yes, it is a complementary perspective as well. I’m so glad you enjoyed seeing the world from the ‘other side’, so to speak. A lesson in life as well!

    1. ronaldmackay says:

      Thank you for the compliment, Val. I very much appreciate it. indeed it is a salutary lesson to learn how to see things from different perspectives as opposed to assuming that one view is “right” and any different view is “wrong”. Our whole Western tradition is based on an ability to understand and accommodate different perspectives.

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