Canoeing Lessons

Out on my walk today (I walk daily &, sorry to say, am utterly a broken record on this subject) some thoughts came to me about canoeing. (I love love love being out in a canoe, it is one of my very-very favourite things to do, places to be…& often as not, while out in a canoe, am overtaken by the wonderful sensation that I have surely died & gone to heaven…& if that isn’t nice, I don’t know what is!! )

& I’ve been on quite a few canoe trips by now, & this morning on my walk some things came to me as lessons from canoe tripping that are equally applicable to life in general, I’d say, & so here they are… (What the heck, why not, eh??)

  • When you’re on a portage (i.e., walking along a portage route between 2 lakes, schlepping all your gear, canoe & paddles & knapsacks & the whole darn ball of wax), you had best watch your step pretty darn carefully!! (It is no fun no fun no fun at all, falling when you have a canoe on your head &/or a heavy knapsack on your back.) Step carefully, dudes!! Watch out for tree roots & whatever else could potentially trip you up if you are not paying close attention…
  • Closely related, best be careful about your footwear too! (Flip-flops need not apply.) Ask a friend what you really need – advice from the more experienced is always a good thing, hmmm?
  • Pack warm clothes (& good rain gear). The weather can change often, suddenly & dramatically. Be prepared!!
  • Pick your companions well! You sure don’t want to be out in the back of beyond with women who freak out ‘cos there are no hairdryers handy, or men who are dictator “my way or the highway” types.
  • Unfortunately, ‘though some men will refuse to admit this, men do not always, 100% of the time, read maps accurately. They are fallible. Yup. Maps, it must also be admitted, do not always clearly reflect the actual terrain. Common sense is required! And often, conversation. It is just plain amazing what can be figured out in simple conversation among intelligent human beings
  • Look around you all the time all the time all the time & drink in the beauty of your surroundings. Breathe, give thanks, drink with your eyes, give thanks; isn’t it absolutely amazing what Mother Earth lays on for us here???
  • It is utterly possible to get in over your head. Some lakes will just plain surprise you by being windy as all get-out…sometimes turning on a dime. Like a brutal wind coming up when you’re on the “wrong” side of a wide & now-angry river. We just can’t always anticipate what’s coming up…however “smart” we are, or however “careful” our plans (even our backup plans) may be.
  • It’s important to learn to stern a canoe before heading out on a canoe trip! It’s like learning to drive a car – a few bits of technique are necessary. No one is saying it’s rocket science or anything – but there is nothing sadder to see out on a lake than folks who cannot stern their canoe properly. Learn before you set out!
  • Build in some extra time – time to allow for the unexpected, which will almost always arise unexpectedly. (Heh heh.)
  • However far away you go from “civilization,” & however much you may think that only the coolest people want to go on canoe trips (the sort who do not leave behind beer cans & dirty diapers & other sundry unpleasant things), you gotta know that the yahoos can & will turn up anywhere & everywhere. Maybe you’ll luck out, & not see anyone from the Bozo Brigade on this trip…& maybe you won’t. It’s a crapshoot, pretty much.
  • Canoeing brings you right into the present moment – & that, along with all the natural beauty you encounter, is one of its great bonuses. You are right here, right now, & it doesn’t matter a darn what wars are taking place where, or what craziness politicians or corporate pillager/hotshots are getting up to “back home.” You’re out in the great big beautiful world, living one utterly grand & glorious moment at a time.


& what could possibly be any better than that??


p.s. all canoe trip-related postings now under one heading, here

‘Quote of the day: “I think of the trees and how simply they let go, let fall the riches of a season, how without grief (it seems) they can let go and go deep into their roots for renewal and sleep. …Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain, psychic pain. Sit it out. Let it all pass. Let it go.” – May Sarton, poet/novelist, “Journal of a Solitude”

A Few Others: “The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe.” – Joanna Macy 

“Planning is not part of our culture. You just get up in the morning and do what you need to do for the day.” – Marilyn Wallace of the Kuku Nyungka ‘mob’ (aboriginal nation) in northern Queensland, Australia. (quoted in Steve Leahy article Indigenous Peoples Needed to Meet the Challenge of Climate Change)

“Love the earth and the sun and animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and the crazy, devote your income and labors to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency.” – Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

“It’s antithetical to the definition of power in this culture that a person might derive power by service rather than control, but that’s the essence of midwifery.” – Elizabeth Davis, Heart & Hands: A Midwife’s Guide to Pregnancy and Birth (quoted in Rob Brezsny’s Pronoia is the Antidote for Paranoia )

“You possess only whatever will not be lost in a shipwreck.” – Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali, Persian philosopher (1058-1111) 

“At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough. No record of it needs to be kept and you don’t need someone to share it with or tell it to. When that happens – that letting go – you let go because you can.” – Toni Morrison, novelist, Tar Baby (quoted in Utne May-June ’03).