Thursday, August 15, 2013

Launching My Own Adventure


Finally, Mike and Nick are off to have their Lake Ozette adventure. At about 4:00 pm yesterday afternoon, I started to get excited for them about their trip. It took long enough.

Boy, I can be a real pain in the ass. I don't mean to. I really don't. It was because I have all that paddling linked with loving Mike in my head. If you think about that, the angst over him taking this trip without me makes some sense.

We started to fall in love at work. I remember the first time I looked at him. I was looking at the back of his head. He had sat down at my desk, faced away from me in the cubicle. Have I ever told you this before? I probably have. I was dating someone else at the time, someone I believed I was in love with. My first thought when I saw the top of Mike's head was, "Now this is a really nice guy."

How did I know?

But truly, the real work of falling in love happened when Mike and I had paddles in our hands, in a canoe, in a raft, and in kayaks. I can count on one hand the trips he took without me.

The Gauley in West Virginia. Oh, that one hurt. My back went out and I didn't get to go. He told me it was an awesome trip. I never did get to paddle the Gauley. The Explorers even got the same river guide we'd had on the New river and also the Tygart. Brick. Oh, we loved Brick and he loved us. He wore a foam shark's fin on his helmet. He was a bear about safety, but he loved our enthusiasm for paddling and he loved history. When we weren't paddling our asses off, he had one story after another about the hills around us. Brick would be over sixty years old today. It's hard to think of the rivers in West Virginia without Brick on them. I cried that weekend, when Mike ran the Gauley with the Explorer Post and I couldn't go. I was afraid that if he went on that trip without me, he'd fall in love with someone else.

And there were the river guide trips after we'd moved to the Pacific Northwest. Those, I understood. Before Nick was born, before he was even a shadow in our imaginations, Mike was a river guide on weekends. We lived the lives of river rats back then. On Monday, he'd get a call about what river they were running, and on Saturday and Sunday, we'd get up early to get out to either the Sauk, the Suiattle, or my favorite, the Wenatchee. For the Methow river, we'd camp on Friday and Saturday nights and run the river twice.

Mike was a solid river guide. I was ballast. Yup, that was my official title. I'd make lunches, shuttle cars, inflate rafts, anything to mooch a trip on a river. I was asked to paddle about three-quarters of the time. The owner would put me into a raft full of teaspoon dippers, skinny bored girls with long painted fingernails, who couldn't pull their weight through Splenda. I may have mooched trips, but I always contributed whatever I could to make it fun, even for those skinny bored girls. I hated when I needed to stay behind. I never knew when that would be. It depended on the number of people in the rafts, their weight, and their willingness to paddle.

Rarely, my back was bothering me, and I'd stay home altogether. Those weekends were a complete blank. Did I watch television the whole time when Mike was off paddling and I was stuck at home? Probably. I might have read books too. The worst was the time Mike was helping with a training run on the Methow. He came home and told me how he'd seen a cougar one morning while he was in his tent. He said it was so close he could hear it breathing. I still have never seen a cougar in the wild.

Those training sessions were a higher level of whitewater rafting. I loved mooching trips then, but imagine getting into a boat with a newbie guide and finding out that he had no skills? Whew! I'm glad I lived through being in the raft with some of them. One guy, Harlan, talked and talked, which was entertaining, but he was the most dangerous. When he talked, he stopped looking downstream at the river contours. And he talked almost continuously. Sometimes I wonder if Harlan has lost anyone yet. I would have been that kind of river guide, had I taken the training. I knew I shouldn't train for that, but I was very good ballast.

I have a lot to tell you about those years, about other people's rafts wrapped around bridge pillars, about watching boats ahead of us flip in waves that loomed above the length of the raft, about being stuck in the heat of Washington's desert when I tried to mooch a trip and it didn't work out. The best of it was on the Wenatchee, where the waves were big and the water relatively safe. The worst of it was when I stayed home. I was crabby with Mike when I did and uncertain. What if he fell in love with someone else on the water?

Something has shifted with this trip. I'm not going to be left behind and we'll still love each other when we get back home. Today, I'm going to go back to bed for a bit, just to catch up on sleep, and then I'm going on my own adventure. I'm not entirely sure what it's going to be. I thought of inviting someone, but I think, at least this time, I want to be able to be quiet if I feel like it. I want to turn on a dime and do something different if I decide. I want to see what it feels like to have my own adventure. Last night, I told Mike I wanted to paddle in Finland someday. I've seen pictures of that place, the fjords. Whooo! It's stunning! I told Mike that sometime, when he was at camp with the Boy Scouts, or on a trip like this one, I was going to Finland to paddle there.

Maybe if I like it enough, Mike will decide he needs to see the place too.

These are going to be the days of taking my own adventures, of refusing to be left behind. I think I get that Nick will need to have his own space in Boy Scouts, trips when his mom isn't tagging along. The hard part is that Mike will be going with him and this nest will be seriously empty. When I kissed Nick goodbye this morning, he was worried he wouldn't have any fun. I said, "You bring your attitude with you, whatever you decide that will be. I'll text you pictures of my adventure if you text me pictures of yours."

I hope we all have a good time. We deserve it after all the shit I've put us through.

Thank you for listening, jb

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