by Barb Casper
I had only visited the park a handful of times, so I set out early with my camera in tow. I arrived shortly after sunrise. The water was calm, and the morning air was crisp as the sun had just peaked above the horizon. The stillness was only interrupted by the occasional seagull squawking overhead.
I took several photos and was enjoying the morning when the rest of the group arrived; a young couple, several small groups of friends, a mother/daughter team, and several ‘single’ attendees joined us. One of the group members immediately stood out from the crowd. Tall, wearing colorful Capri pants and a feather in her hair, this person appeared to be “comfortable in her own skin,” I surmised.
I, on the other hand, was feeling a bit apprehensive. I had been canoeing many times in the past. However, I had never been kayaking before, especially on such a large body of water. Still, I felt up to the challenge. I figured I would do fine despite my concerns once I became accustomed to the kayak.
After a brief lesson and the opening of sacred space we each were assigned a kayak. Those who were experienced set out for the open water beyond the protected harbor while the rest of the group hugged the shoreline. My intent was to catch up to those who had headed for open waters. However, being a novice and having difficulty with strength and endurance due to health issues, I soon fell behind.
So, I concentrated on the assignment, “Give thanks, say a prayer, offer up flowers to the water, and express your gratitude for everything the water has given you.” I thought it was such a simple act of gratitude for something we take for granted. We bathe, cook, clean, water our grass, wash our cars, brush our teeth, and drink water to sustain us and, most of us, never give it a second thought. Reflecting upon how I use water and what it means in my life, I sat back, closed my eyes, recited a silent prayer of thanks, and laid my flowers upon the surface of the water. Such an impactful lesson to practice often; giving thanks for all I have been given!
When I opened my eyes, I noticed the current and cool breeze had pushed me further away from the shore. I found myself midway between those who stayed behind in the protective cove and those who paddled out into the bay. Again, feeling a bit vulnerable and unsure of myself, I headed closer inland. Halfway to shore, I heard a voice behind me. I turned my kayak around, and it was the gal with the colorful Capri pants and a feather in her hair. Thankful to have someone nearby, I struck up a conversation.
I learned the gal who appeared so comfortable in her skin was “Annie.” While we talked, I was facing the open water, and Annie faced the shoreline. Ever so often, I would paddle backward as we kept drifting further away from the shoreline. Of course, I never got any closer to shore as both our kayaks were following the current. Annie wasn’t paddling and she looked comfortable, so I stopped my futile pursuit of getting nowhere! I finally found a sense of peace as we drifted into that “sweet spot” where the sun’s rays reflected and glistened off the water.
Annie definitely was a laid-back one! Slumped down in her kayak with her long legs propped up along the sides, we talked for what might have been an hour. Lulled by the water splashing against the kayaks, it’s as if time itself stood still. We spoke of family, why we had signed up for the excursion, and the journey we had taken thus far on our own paths to “wellness.” Annie, I learned, was much further along in her journey while I was still somewhat of a “newbie.”
After a delightful conversation and having had the pleasure of meeting a new friend, we decided to head for shore. Rather than bypassing the thick reeds that were directly in front of us, Annie, being more experienced, headed straight for them. She said, “Follow me, I’ve done this before.” Gracefully and swiftly, she entered the reeds. Soon I lost sight of her as she was swallowed up by the tall grasses. I pushed forward but soon lost momentum as there was little room to place my paddle. The reeds scraped against the bottom of the kayak, slowing me down. Again, a feeling of uneasiness set in as I felt I was going to get stuck. “Then what?” I thought.
Ahead, I heard Annie call out, “Are you OK? Just keep paddling.” I continued to wrestle with the weeds, banging the sides of the kayak with my paddle and scooting myself forward in my seat to gain momentum when I felt the kayak scraping bottom. Finally, I broke free of the reeds and, once again, found myself in the sheltered cove and open water. Looking around, I saw Annie was already ahead and to the right of me, making her way to an expansive area surrounded by aquatic grasses and cattails. She said she was going to kayak along the edge of the inlet and explore some more.
Feeling tired after wrestling with the reeds, I yelled back, letting her know I was heading for shore. My arms and shoulders ached, my back was on fire, and my legs were numb, but the experience had been fantastic! As always, I had pushed myself beyond my physical capabilities. When it was time to exit the canoe, I needed help disembarking as I was unable to stand up on my own. Still, I was already itching to do this again!
- In life, sometimes you need a friend to reassure you that everything will be OK.
- You can get past almost anything with grace and ease if you remain determined and self-assured.
- Paddling against the current gets you nowhere. The fears you conjure up in your head are seldom realized.
- It’s better when you allow yourself to drift along and enjoy the moment until it’s time to head to shore.
The way to wellness is seldom an easy path:
- Once you find open waters, hold your head up, proudly wear a feather in your cap (or in your hair), and give thanks for all you have accomplished.
- Remain confident in your abilities. Keep paddling when things get tough or simply take time to rest and enjoy the present moment when uneasiness sets in.
- Be thankful when everything falls into place, and you find your “sweet spot” where the sun’s reflected rays glisten upon the water.
- Finally, be grateful for the life you have despite whatever obstacles you may encounter.
- Nature has a way of reminding us of the cycle of life, its natural ebb and flow. It teaches us to slow down, live in the moment, and recognize that wellness is inside each of us. Beauty and wonder surround us. When we immerse our body, mind, and soul in nature, we soon recognize that everything else we focus our attention on is insignificant static.
For me, the kayaking trip was an enjoyable experience, and I have Annie to thank for that. I am no longer striving for “better.” I have learned to be thankful for each moment I have been given.
I hope to see Annie again someday. Meanwhile, Annie, may you forever rest upon the waters and bask in the rays of the sun. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!