Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Being In the Moment, On the River

Last weekend, during a visit to my mother’s house, I faced a familiar problem: I wanted to make time to do what I wanted to do but could also find about ten other things I should be doing. I was about a half mile from the Platte River, a river I spent a lot of time on as a kid, and had noticed the previous day that the water was running high for this late in the summer, high enough to float a kayak. I’d brought mine along on this trip, hoping to sneak in a seven mile jaunt down the river “if I could find the time.”

If I wrote my own verse to Julie Andrews’ “These are a few of my favorite things,” canoeing or kayaking down a river would find some room upfront. But, sitting there thinking of all the relatives I needed to visit and the work that needed to be done, I suddenly realized that while kayaking on a river was constantly on my mind as something I’d love to do for fun, I hadn’t found the time in years. Sure there were some trips to the lake once in awhile, but, at least for me, there’s nothing better than getting away from all people and all roads for a little while, perhaps coming around a bend and looking a whitetail buck, still in velvet, standing on the river bank.

But, I thought, I don’t have any way to get to the river, a half mile away or no definite way to get back when I get to the bridge seven miles downstream. Then, perhaps remembering the scene from Easy Rider where Peter Fonda throws his watch down in the parking lot, I grabbed my kayak, my cell phone a bottle of water and a paddle and started walking. What I thought was going to be a half mile walk became much easier as I realized I could drop the boat and paddle across a lake rather than following the road to the river bridge. I wasn’t sure how close the river channel came to the far edge of the lake, but I was on the water, off on a long overdue adventure at last.

As I drug the kayak out of the lake, wondering how long I’d have to portage again, I saw the river channel, flowing strong, about fifty feet from the lake. Just a few minutes before I hit the river, I’d been standing in the yard of my mother’s house, thinking the river was too far, the time too short, and the water probably too low. Sure I had to trespass a little bit, but, looking back, no one seemed to notice, or at least be chasing me. So I kicked off the bank the way you might if you were launching a canoe, and almost got wet, realizing that even when you’re having fun and undertaking an adventure, you still have to obey the laws of gravity.

A few minutes later, I came around a bend and saw that small whitetail buck I mentioned earlier, and was amazed at how brown his coat was, being more used to seeing them when it faded a little, in the winter. I later saw many Great Blue Herons, the only ducks and geese left being the decoys caught in logjams. Around one bend I surprised a doe who was in the middle of the river, likely crossing but perhaps just cooling off, who ran off as if I’d caught her naked, taking a bath, which I guess was true.

The storm that looked inevitable passed harmlessly, the wind nicely cooling me off along the way. By one cabin a “Chessie” must have smelled me as he barked before I got close and sounded as if he might come leaping off the bank as he protected his home from that strange green shape that carried a silent guy in a blue hat holding a white paddle, a pair of binoculars around his neck.

As I passed under an old railroad bridge that had been converted into a bike trail and walking path, strangely deserted on the Fourth of July, I playfully grabbed the rope hanging down into the water. Being more used to canoeing than kayaking, I almost learned how easy they are to tip when you foolishly grab a stationary object while facing across the current, but miraculously righted myself, probably more from the four-letter words that involuntary came bursting out of my mouth than from the paddling I did with my arms. Somehow I still got pretty wet and added a half inch of water to the bottom of the boat, thankful though that I still had my gear and was more dry than wet with just a mile or so to go.

When I reached the bridge and pulled my cell phone out of the ziplock bag, I called home and convinced my brother to pick me up. It had only been about two and a half hours since I’d charged off without a clue or a plan, but it worked out. I felt like a new person, however, when I pulled up at home.

I found the time to do what I wanted to do, for the first time in years, and it didn’t cost a thing. I’m sorry I didn’t do it sooner and vowed to do it more often.

I also want to get back to blogging. Sorry I’ve been gone so long. I may kayak first, but I’ll write about it later.

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