it’s been a while..
Often times, I like to present things to the greater human community when they are perfected to my liking; not perfect, but good enough. Most recently, I’ve been trying to embrace that grayness, those in-between moments, because that’s where the growth lies. In kayaking, in naturalism, in relationships, in life.
I found it so easy to make time for laps on our local class fun run when I was ‘training’ for the race (literally this translated to a few beers & an excuse to push my already tired-from-work body through a 45 minute several class iv rapid run, usually in the evenings after work). Though I didn’t need one, I used the upcoming race as an excuse, almost to myself, as to why I just absolutely HAD to get out & paddle. The race came and went; I did not terribly, but not fantastically either. And then I noticed a drop off in my lap frequency. There was a period of two weeks or so where I didn’t even get in a kayak on anything of consequence. Sure, I ran up & around a mountain…but I didn’t boat. And then I started getting anxious. It seems funny, but every time I pause in my kayaking endeavours, I have this absurd thought that pops into my head that says… “but what if you’ve totally forgotten everything? like what if you can’t roll anymore? what if it was all just luck?” stupid little gremlins, & logically I know much better, but tuning them out enough to just make it to the water can be a slog all its own.
And so when I finally did, taking my squirty little boat for a 2100+ cfs jaunt down the local run, I paddled through the first bit, not timidly, but with an air of resignation waiting for that shoe to drop. And drop it did, right at the top of the first consequential rapid of the run. Coming into the hole, I knew I was sitting up too straight, and as I dropped over the boof, I was staring at the sky for a brief moment before tucking as the squirrelly water enveloped me. Ah shit, I thought, as I set up for a roll, half-assing it in the aerated water, & getting a breath as I felt my boat rub up on a large boulder. I snorted half that breath as I flipped back over, giggling, thinking, welp, that’s not the place to roll, & setting up once again for a quick one. A few seconds later, I’m breathing air again as I take two strokes through the crux of the bottom part of the rapid, and run the pipe cleaner than I ever have before, giggling all the while. Tim follows me, after a couple of hoots that I managed such a great line in the end, despite running the entire lead up upside down.
And with that, all of the anxiety melts away, and is replaced with pure joy. It’s like I had forgotten just how happy this movement makes me, how incredible it feels to be in sinuous oneness with the currents of the river. How glorious it feels to trust in your abilities to roll with it (ha ha) when shit goes wrong.. because shit will inevitably go wrong. And how freeing it is to be able to let go and giggle at those mistakes, at those mishaps, because in the end, they don’t define you, & they only make you better, if you choose to learn from them.
I’ve found that, in kayaking as with naturalist guiding, love, & life, the best way to engage with & share joy is to be joyful, and the easiest way to find joy is to move with passionate abandon in moments throughout these endeavours. There are moments that beget solemnity, & there are times that abandon must be reigned in, but for the most part, joy feeds joy. There is not a need for perfection when passion can be engaged with in earnest.
& so I’ll be looking forward to struggling through learning to playboat again, to learning more & more about nearly everything, to earnestly embracing the failures that are bound to pepper the process. It’s an important reminder that the real success lies in having the courage to show up, to be seen: To enter the arena. & to radiate joy with all of the humans who share that arena, & with those who dare greatly in their own.
[ featured photo courtesy of Kurt DeVoe on race day ]