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So far Xena (my kayak) and I have explored a little bit of the Mississippi River and a little bit of the Rum River. The skinny, little Rum surprised me. There were partially to fully submerged tree sections to frantically steer around. It wouldn’t have been such a frantic effort except that it was also very windy and between the current and the wind, I wasn’t always going where I wanted to go.  Isn’t that a metaphor for life…

But I rather enjoyed staying at the level of alertness the Rum River required. It wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t still sight see, looking for wildlife and river art, which is what the river does when it makes collages of branches and sand and weeds.

The conditions were hell on taking any picture of the best parts of the river, though. Seriously, it was choppy!

Along the way, several Kingfishers kept flying over Steve and I. They have a rattley call that you can hear at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (a fun site to browse if you like to listen to bird song).

I also saw an eagle fly down and over the river for a bit, while the crows swore at him from the trees. And there were several turtles sunning on logs and rocks. A couple of them were very LARGE and I tried to sneak past them, picking up speed when they dove in and appeared to be swimming toward, rather than away, from me.

I don’t know what I was imagining — like one would swim up and grab my paddle and pull me overboard and turtle me to death in the muck? Yes, something like that or that their powerful little snapping turtle jaws would remove a finger or two. Hey, if you are one of those people afraid of garter snakes, spiders of all sorts, or bats, I am allowed to have my own little turtle phobia…

I hesitated to show the following photo because I look like such a dork! But I’m a happy dork who is learning to embrace her dorkiness.

Steve and I had planned to paddle down the river and then go back up it, back to where the truck was parked. After all, we’d managed to paddle in both directions on the Mississippi. How hard could it be on the Rum River? Well, apparently tougher than the Mississippi.

After going through a couple passes where our kayaks picked up a speed all on their own and did some kind of polka step, swinging off in a couple different directions, we came to the conclusion that the only way we could make it back up the river is if we got out of our kayaks and pulled them along behind us. Given the muddiness of the river, that didn’t seem like a very good option.

When we reached the overpass for the road that led to the Rum River Park, we beached our kayaks. Steve walked back to the truck, while I waited with our stuff.

Next time, Steve and I will plan out the drop off and pick up points so we can take a longer trip down the river. And there will be snacks and beverages involved.

I’m enjoying the feeling of freedom at being able to see the river from the river, rather than the shore. And that too is another good metaphor for life.

2009, the year my marriage went up in smoke, was the first time I tried kayaking. For that matter, 2009 was the year I tried a lot of new things. I was hungry for distractions and salve for my wounds.

After paddling the Elk River with friends, I wanted to run out and buy a kayak right then and there. But there was the issue of how I could possibly lift and load a kayak by myself and where I would store a kayak, since I didn’t even know where I was going to be living. I dropped the kayak idea and focused on handling everything that was changing in my life.

But not being able to get a kayak right away didn’t stop me from imagining myself paddling down a narrow river, or gliding along the shore of a lake in the early morning, when the water is as still as glass and the quiet is only broken by the splash of a fish jumping or the soul searching sound of a loon.

Someday, I thought…

A year later,  Steve and I tried out several kayaks at Lebanon Hills Regional Park, where Midwest Mountaineer was having a kayak ‘try before you buy’ session. I fell in love with the ease of paddling and the stability of a Venture Easky 13. But the Easky was pricey, and I still needed to prepare for our house selling and having to move somewhere else.

“Not yet,” I told myself.

When I was on Madeline Island last month, I saw the Apostle Islands kayaking brochures. As I looked at the cover photo of smiling people exploring sea caves, I pictured my body leaning low to enter a rocky opening, my paddle cutting the water and the sound echoing off the sandstone walls.

Someday, I thought…

Unexpectedly, someday arrived, as somedays often do. An email came from Midwest Mountaineering showed that the kayak I’d been dreaming of was on sale! The price of everything I would need to kayak was still a stretch, but I justified the expense by telling myself that it was cheaper than the home on the river I had wanted or the cabin on a lake that I wished I had. A kayak was a doable way to grab a chunk of the water world that I longed for.

I’ve been out with Xena twice in the two weeks that I’ve owned her. Every boat has to have a name doesn’t it?

I’m glad I waited to see if kayaking was something I lusted after on impulse or wanted to do long term. I’m glad I waited to get to know myself better.

I’ve been putting a tentative toe into many things, getting to know what I like, versus what I like in order to be liked. I feel a little bit like Goldilocks, only instead of looking for the porridge or bed that is “just right,” I’ve been looking for the just right life.

It’s taken me a long time to finally give myself permission to love what I love and to believe that what I like is okay, even if someone else tells me it’s strange, or asks me the kind of question that I was asked when I was showing friends a photo of my kayak.

“Do you even have time to kayak?” I was asked.

The question could have been like a bucket of cold water dumped on my steamy enthusiasm. But not anymore. I’m done with that.

“Are you kidding me?” I said. “I don’t have enough time NOT to kayak.”

(Crossposted on Vision and Verb)

Okay, I rarely post more than once a week anymore, but I can not keep such weather joy to myself. I must share! My drive home from work:

The dogs have a better attitude about it.

The snow-fall hoods me round;
In wood and water, earth and air,
A silence everywhere.

— Loreena McKennitt, “Snow”

A bit of Christmas tune towards the end, but such a beautiful voice… it does drive the cold winter away

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