Thursday, June 7, 2007

Riding Atop the Water

On a recent kayak trip in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I went out with some friends on one of those perfect days. Days that make you happy you're alive, breathing fresh air and able to enjoy just being a part of the surroundings. All my friends had kayaks that had them seated low in the water. This allowed them to maneuver easily, though they had a fair possibility of tipping once out of the protection of the sound.

My kayak was an ocean kayak. It sits higher in the water making it a bit harder to paddle, though providing it with superior balance and a significantly smaller likelihood of tipping when the water gets rough. Since I just learned to swim this past year, choppy water makes me a little more than nervous. I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that making a boat sit higher in the water made it less likely to tip even though I was having to use all the arm strength I could muster to paddle around.

In a testament to my bravery, I tried to follow my friends out of the sound. I may have had a safer kayak, though they were all better swimmers. My seasickness and general fear of death by drowning sent me back to the sound, alone, after only a few minutes out on the open water.

So I made my way, albeit slowly, down a few channels among the cattails and mangroves. I was overwhelmed by the stillness when I let my paddle lay across my lap. I could only hear the whisper of the wind in the tall grasses around me. And I felt the water lift me up.

Riding atop the water, living above the fray, takes work. Hard work - we have to paddle with all our might, with everything we have within us. We feel every bump beneath us. We sway back and forth with the water, with life, roiling underneath us. And we have to keep going. Put the paddle in the water, put our hearts on the line, and move forward with courage and confidence. There is no guarantee of preventing a tip into the water, not in a kayak, and not in life. To be sure, traveling on a higher plane is more difficult: it takes patience, time, and an understanding of the forces all around us. The prize is knowing that when the waves really kicks up, we are much more likely to keep moving ahead, toward our goal, than those sitting low in the water who are being consumed by the chaos of the seas.

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