a legacy in the paddle
The slender sweet borrowed yellow canoe, named Buttertart rests in our yard after this season of gliding along lakes and mindfully carried through forests. We have yet to choose if we are running away from our lives or into our lives each time we pack our backpacks, load the car, and drive to the access point the night before. We sleep in our car to be on the water by dawn with quiet excitement for the adventure to begin. When I awkwardly find my way to the front of Buttertart, I surrender to the uncomfortable seat, dip my paddle in, ready for the distant journey on waters that may behave in any way the weather guides them.
This primitive watercraft a frame of wooden ribs then covered by tree bark and lumber was once the creative manner of travel by our ancestors. Without the convenience of a toxic machine that runs when we turn a key, we use a tall spine, a softly engaged abdomen, and the partnered muscular energy of a taught technique to sweep ourselves across streams, rivers and lakes. There is a lesson here to be mindful of what we bring with us, with every item crammed into the pockets of our pack, we accumulate weight, weight of responsibility in each dip, and draw of our paddle.
The canoe is a vessel, much like our bodies. We live in our bodies and our bodies move us through the current of life. We pack ourselves with food, thoughts, emotions, and products to survive. When we paddle downstream, the experience is effortless, pleasant and nourishing to the eyes, thoughts, skin and soul. When we paddle upstream, the experience is full of effort, maybe less enjoyable, and perhaps now a distraction from the beautiful sights, calm thoughts, sunkissed skin and soul medicine nature organically offers.
When the weather stirs among our relationships, jobs, sense of worth, purpose and all the rest, we become at odds with how well our vessels will move. Do we stop paddling or paddle harder? Do we leave our canoe and swim to the shore out of sight or do we stay, sit at the bottom where we are most grounded and wait patiently for balance to return. Do we remember that storms are temporary or do we define it as permanent in the moment of accelerated winds and lifting waves? Are these decisions we make impulsively or do we raise conversation with the person who shares the canoe with us?
My someday husband and I are quiet paddlers who much prefer the effortless experience over anything else. We can only be successful when synchronized. With me in the front, and he in the back we paddle at a pace that has taken a few trips to cultivate. When we find our rhythm, the soar we share is sweet, and I wonder if the water below enjoys the floating massage that we create…
With every canoeing experience there is a legacy in the paddle that reminds me of our strokes in life, methodical and whole do we learn unity in a way only taught by practice.