I’m afraid the upshot of the float trip was that it was amazing and a lot of fun. But I did not take one single picture the whole time. Sorry, fans. It was a much different float trip than I usually experience because instead of a couple of really experienced chums tooling gently along, it was me in my canoe accompanying a tandem crewed by a mother/daughter team that were completely inexperienced.
My float experience changed from its usual focus on birdwatching and thinking to shepherding, tending, guiding, and instructing. The mother had floated before, but she was always in the front while her husband steered. Their daughter had never held a canoe paddle in her hand (she was 9). By the end of the float they were both much better canoeists, the mother knew the rudiments of how to steer and was starting to get better at it and the daughter knew how to paddle even though she was pretty wimpy at it. I told them they were going to be sore in the morning, but they both opined that it would be worth it.
In a way I felt like I was initiating a virgin. You want them to have a good time so they will want to do it again, you don’t want the experience to be traumatic. Of course they dumped — three times. But they were never in any real danger, and I pointed out that the whole idea of being on the river was to get wet anyway. They were quite impressed at my expertise at tipping water out of a canoe. It’s not hard once you know the technique. Once they dropped a paddle. I retrieved it, and the paddling down the river to get it and then catching the eddy was a great demonstration of what a canoe can do. When I brought the paddle back to the rather panicky little girl who had dropped it, I showed her the extra paddle I had strapped into my canoe, “just in case.” I showed her mother my float bag, with its carefully constructed first aid kit, and that made her feel a lot better. I mentioned that I had it “just in case” also, but the goal was to never need to use it.
My favorite part of the trip was when I realized that the water was high enough that the rock bluff down near the takeout was exactly right for playing “River Bank Music”. Please forgive me if I have told you about this before, but this is one of my favorite games when I am floating. I find a place where there are lots of nooks and crannies in the rocks down on the water. When you paddle up close to the bank and rock your canoe rhythmically, it sets up waves which then empty and fill the holes in the rocks in a very watery sort of percussive musical tone. When I started to rock my boat to set up the waves, the young girl got very concerned and told me I should be careful or I was going to tip my canoe over. I told her I had to rock the boat to play the game. When the music started, they were both quiet and listening, and really “dug” it (if I can use an old fashioned term). We really had a great time.
It really gave me a lot of respect and thankfulness to the people who shepherded me through my initial learning curve on the river. I’m so thankful that they taught me well and allowed me to make mistakes without making me feel stupid. Running a canoe is not an innate thing, and it takes time to get the feel for it. I think the pair I was with this weekend will come back wanting to work on getting the feel down better, and if that is so then my job was well done.
Seeing this soft and plump little nine year old girl really made me think about the generation that is growing up now, glued to their computers and cell phones. The little girl who floated with me couldn’t have been more different from what I was like when I was her age. At that period of my life I was running around in the mountains of Colorado all summer, skiing and sledding and skating in the winter. I was lean and tough and hard. I didn’t eat gooey granola bars for lunch and have my mother think that this was nutritionally excellent provisioning.
I’m a member of a local alliance for sustainable organic agriculture called Well Fed Neighbor. I get some regular emails from them, and I got one the other day that really set a train of thought going. This is a quote from part of it:
Food does not grow itself. It takes work. The argument that the poor can’t afford local food is just silly. The poor can be taught to plant and grow their own fresh food, positively impacting their food budget…. But it takes work. We can all grow food in our backyards to improve our knowledge, our health, and a reconnection of the young to where their food comes from… but it takes work.
What I was thinking about this subject is that I have seen a lot of people in my lifetime who were standing somewhere holding a sign that said, “Will work for food.” My response is “Really?” If you really mean that, why aren’t you taking care of a garden somewhere?
Jim and I have spent the week getting corn and squash planted across the street in that garden, and getting the garden here whipped into shape. The peas are coming in. We already picked, washed, de-stringed, blanched and froze two gallons of them. This afternoon Jim picked another gallon while I was doing my last massage.
At the same time he picked a salad for our dinner, which is on the cutting board just above the sink of peas. Very soon the broccoli will be coming in. My feeling is that in this area of the world, there aren’t very many people who don’t have someplace available where they could have a garden. It is definitely time for the teachers who will show them how to do it to start classes.
And these young, inexperienced moderns need to learn what “work” means. It involves sweat, and sore arms and shoulders, and blisters, and bug bites. But the rewards are great: steps towards independence and freedom from want.
After all, even having a great day on the river requires a certain amount of work.