When one finds passion, reason goes out the window and obstacles become invisible.
– Lydia Snider
Day 50 of paddling came and went with the summer solstice. The sun pitched its longest reach into the sky as I led my very own kayaking students, mother duck style, down class II rapids of the South Fork of the American River. Yes, I’m actually teaching kayaking now!
Fifty days seemed like a huge accomplishment, and it was, but my life’s rhythm has fallen in pace with the pulse of the rivers and when twenty more paddling days passed they seemed to go by with no effort. The goal of 100 days of paddling seemed so lofty early this year, but since I let go and pointed my nose downstream it seems to be easily within reach. What has happened over the last seven months and seventy days of kayaking?
Well, for starters I have:
- been on 14 different rivers, 27 different reaches and paddled with over 50 different friends
- spent my birthday on my favorite river (the Smith!)
- discovered fascinating skin afflictions caused by way to much time in a drysuit
- had a friend taken by the river and grieved with his wife and our community
- learned that the depth of a friendship can be conveyed in a single blink of dripping wet eyelashes
- got three new jobs (concurrently), all of them involving rivers in completely different capacities
- had my car, kayak, drysuit and countless other belongings stolen
- recovered my car, kayak and drysuit! But not the other stuff
- broken a heart
- fallen in love
- had my heart broken
- broken my car
- stolen a car
- become the subject of a new song
- discovered how hard it is to hitch hike with a kayak
- learned that you can’t cry while upside-down in a kayak, but it is a good place to hide your face
- found new true friends during these recent, roughest weeks of the year.
- amazingly maintained excellent health and am injury free, and for that I celebrate!
On day 70 of my paddling this year I was dropped off early in the morning, in the rain, at the put in for Chili Bar on the South Fork American River. Waiting for the water to rise I didn’t see another soul around. It seemed like a good time to take stock of what this is all about, this passion for rivers and paddling and why, in just the past few weeks so many things have fallen apart for me. But I couldn’t make any sense of it and the effort felt like an upstream battle. I’m blinded by my own mixture of feeling incredibly grateful for what I have yet facing the raw unfairness of life and a broken heart.
I put on the water and floated downstream alone. The rain stopped, but the sky remained gray, mirroring the pressing ache in my chest. I nailed my first boof and put a smile on my face. I sung to myself outloud, loud, because why not? I stopped to play at all my favorite spots and spent as much time at each as I wanted. More smiling and a few laughs at myself for the moves I’m amazed at myself for making (and not making) while surfing 1st Threat rapid.
Two rafts passed and I never saw them again. I never saw anyone on the water until I reached Marshall Gold park where I would normally take out. But there was no car for me there, or anywhere, so I paddled on to Camp Lotus where I would get out, shoulder my boat and walk home.
My pursuit of paddling has taken me through a lot in a short time and now it gives me a place to come home to. The passion I have for it has fed my soul and now I hope it will give my heart a place to heal. There aren’t really any answers out there on the water for me. I know that. It simply feels good to be out there, soothing myself with each stroke downstream and connecting myself to the world through the river.