Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Gift of Paddling a Canoe

I wanted to tell you that Mike and I did something right. Nick was lying in bed tonight and we were talking about the summertime and everything he wanted to do.  Oh, he is going to be busy, very busy.

Crap. I'm too tired to write. The television is on and it keeps dragging my train of thought away from what I was going to tell you. Then, when I tried to remember what drew up to Nick telling me what he told me, I couldn't remember. Was it the book he was reading, 'Brian's Return' by Gary Paulsen?

Nick started reading 'Hatchet' in class a couple of years ago and has run through at least six of Paulsen's other books since then. My favorite was 'Guts' the true stories that led to the stories of a fictional Brian. Yes, I admit that I have read a lot of them too. I loved them. They make me feel the way I felt in Alaska when I caught the trout with my bare hands and ran yelling through camp for Mike to see. I told you about that, didn't I?

Or maybe it all came up when I told Nick that he needed to brave the weeds that had grown up in the past month and put the canoe away. I told him that there could be small animals living in it by now and that he wouldn't like all the bugs he'll encounter having left it in what were small weeds at the time. Things here in the Pacific Northwest grow extraordinarily fast in the spring. My mustard green leaves in the little pot on the deck have grown from the size of lentils to the size of large peas in just one day. But no matter how the subject came up, it did come up.

Nick was talking about the canoe. See, I love that canoe since we have had so many adventures in it. I even imagine that we were in that canoe when we were in Alaska and Minnesota and Upstate New York and Maine, though I know we rented and can tell you about the people we rented from. Crazy Eddie chased a young moose with his van on a dirt road in Maine, the bastard. But the mind does tricky things and somehow in every story that happened in a canoe, we paddle in our own canoe, a green Camper Old Town Canoe with skid plates on each end and saggy cane seats. I bought it for Mike for our first Christmas in 1987 and now it is scored from dodging stones in many rivers.

And when Nick was born, Mike and I tried to figure out how we could get a baby safely into a canoe for a trip. When Nick was safe to float in a life jacket by himself, we took a three day trip out in the Boundary Waters. Despite thunder storms, he loved it, but we stopped early when he started having an uncontrolled allergic reaction to mosquito bites. We wouldn't risk taking him on whitewater when he was young, not even our home Snoqualmie river, until three years ago when he turned eleven. Oh, we took him on day trips to small local lakes. We bought him a tiny wooden paddle. He caught his first fish in that canoe. We even paddled Lake Diablo for four days a couple of summers ago. The winds on Lake Diablo blew waves over the bow and the temperature of the lake hovered at 48 degrees, cold enough to make a person gasp involuntarily when they submerged in its waters. On that trip, Nick asked us to take him home every night after dark even though he had had a grin on his face in the crazy wind and even braved a swim at one of the most beautiful campsites I ever experienced.

We were worried that our love of canoeing would make him hate it. You know how it is. A man loves hiking and subjects his children to hours of grueling hikes and they grow to hate it. Or it could have been bowling or curling or karaoke. For us, it was canoeing, yet tonight, in the dark of his room, Nick told me for the second time in a week, "Mom, I love that canoe. I love it."

Of all the unimportant things, it really doesn't matter in the scheme of his life if he paddles a canoe or not, not like getting an education or falling in love or staying healthy or being able to get along with people around him. Of all the unimportant things he could say, that one thing brought tears to my eyes. I love that canoe. I can't think of any joy in life that I would rather have given him than the ache of paddling in your shoulders, the feel of the breeze in your hair, the smell of the water with a touch of algae, and the glint of sun in your eyes. 

Thank you for listening, jb

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