Saturday’s adventure reminded me why I enjoy traveling by kayak.
My wife and I floated on tubes down a stretch of the Boardman River. It was a delightful way to cool down on a hot summer day, to relax, to forget the daily grind.
We’ve previously traveled that stretch, from The Forks to Sheck’s Place, by both tube and kayak. It’s about three miles as the crow flies. But the river twists and turns, so the actual distance by water is quite a bit more. We paused along the route a couple of times, so we were on the river about four hours.
That’s why my shins, which I missed when slathering myself with sunscreen, are sunburned as I write this. I pride myself on striving to prepare for the future, but somehow my shins slipped through the cracks.
Choosing tubes over kayaks for the day’s adventure was a conscious decision to relinquish control, to let the universe guide us.
I enjoy traveling by kayak because I’m able to control my own destiny. I enjoy tubing because I lose some of that control.
Kayaking allows my wife and I each to control our individual destinies. Double-ended paddles eliminate the awkward left/right changes that always plague me in a canoe. Each of us having our own boat makes each of us responsible for our own choices.
Paddling a kayak generally means that if you pay attention to what you see ahead, it is possible to navigate safely and easily to your destination.
If only being able to see and navigate our individual health and financial futures was that easy.
Each of us in this world maintains our lifelong personal health as best we can. Individual choices factor heavily into how healthy we remain as we grow older. Each of us also faces hereditary and social factors over which we have little of no control. And unexpected illness or accident can sour a bright future.
Each of us also navigates our lifelong personal financial situation as best we are able. Individual choices about earning, spending and saving factor heavily into financial health. Each of us is born into a different social situation — some of us aboard a yacht squarely in the middle of the financial river, some of us clinging to a makeshift raft on a barely navigable creek miles from the mainstream. Again, unexpected barriers can sour even the brightest financial future.
The coronavirus pandemic is delivering a double whammy of health and financial hardship to people across the spectrum.
It’s been a five-month-long grind for everyone. Each of us is navigating as best we can, making choices we believe can best keep us on track to complete our journey toward the future.
We’re all kayakers on the river of life, paddling with all our strength and skill, looking far ahead to study the tricky spots, turning where we think best, paddling with all our might when necessary — and floating peacefully through quiet stretches of water that give us a moment to breathe calmly and rest our weary minds.
Saturday was a blissfully quiet moment for my wife and I.
We deliberately decided to leave kayaks at home and travel the Boardman by inner tube. We sought an afternoon of drifting peacefully under the clouds, an interlude of thinking about nothing other than admiring the beauty of cedars, pines and wildflowers as we leisurely drifted through the forest.
Tubing is enjoyable specifically because it offers limited directional control. You gaze up at the blue sky hovering above the trees, listen to the gentle gurgling of water flowing over rocks and fallen tree trunks. You momentarily forget about the complications of disease, politics and the almighty dollar. All you can do is try to avoid the worst snags along the route.
Of course, tubing still requires a modicum of attention. Let your attention slip too long and you end up wedged atop a submerged tree trunk with a spider dangling an inch from your nose.
A kayak and a double-ended paddle offer a better chance to be in control of your personal destiny than any inflatable plastic ring.
But sometimes it feels right to lounge in a tube and just float with the current, secure in the knowledge that eventually you’ll end up in the same place anyway, no matter how you travel.