I woke before dawn and packed up my gear, water and a few snacks before heading out for a morning of kayaking. Overcast skies with low hanging clouds hovered overhead, yet there was no prediction of rain. I launched alongside a pontoon boat loaded with fishing gear, rafts and the sound of laughter. I will take a moment to introduce you to my companion for the day, my kayak Sunshine. Like her name, she is bright yellow. I chose her today because she is lighter than my kayak, Lavender, and she is 10 feet long. Sunshine fits inside my CRV while Lavender, at fourteen feet, must go on top.
As always, Sunshine and I easily make our way across the water. Then I notice the breeze picking up a bit and white cap begin forming across the lake. By now I am midway across the lake so I continue onward. Sunshine begins to bounce around and paddling her westward becomes more challenging. In those moments I began to second guess my choice of kayak for today’s adventure. Lavender, long and streamline, is made for the open water and tracks beautifully even in the wind. Sunshine, on the other hand, bounces along and every stroke seems to remind her of the direction we are traveling. First lesson learned: Stop lamenting my choice. I cease the should have, could have when I realize, I’m in the middle of the lake and there is nothing I can do to change this decision now! Renewed in my commitment to continue today’s adventuress with Sunshine, I paddle harder to stay the course.
Without warning the wind increases again and I fasten my life vest securely. While I am fumbling with the tabs of my vest, my paddle tips into the water and drifts under my kayak! No worries, I have a newly purchased tether and I am able to retrieve the paddle quickly. As I feel the gratitude for the purchase of a new tether recently made, a wave broadsides my boat and lands in my seat soaking me to the bone. Still I cannot be deterred. Onward I paddle until I find a small alcove on the south side of sand traps of the local golf course. I paddle onto land and sit a while, a long, long while. My clothes dry, and I enjoy my snacks. Lesson two: whatever is happening pause, breathe, find something to savor. In time, I make an attempt to get back into my kayak. Several whitecaps fill my kayak and I drag Sunshine back to land and empty her. Soaked again, I sit on the stern to dry out and wait for the winds to calm before I venture out again. As I sat, I watched the water roll onto the land over and over again. With each wave that came, debris from below was churned to the surface.
Having a couple of hours to ponder this image. It became easy to see that life was mirroring nature. Lesson three: As the turbulence of our nation rolls, all that has been beneath the surface is now risen to the top, capturing our immediate attention. This is true in our individual lives also. As what we experience stirs within us, we are invited to a deep dive of not only surface living, rather looking deeply into our own heart and mind. As we dive deeper into our subconscious mind, we may be surprised about what we find. As the water in front of me churned, turquoise colored shells surfaced. Bits of sand rose too. Wood chips and even a fish carcass landed about 30 feet away. The fish will enrich the soil as it decomposes, the shells will continue to churn and be worn into bits of sand. The wood will decay from being immersed in water.
Finally, two and a half hours later, I drug Sunshine back into the water, this time I walked further and hopped in, and begin paddling with all my strength as fast as I could paddle. When I entered into open water, I found that I had to continue paddling with all my strength so as not to be propelled backward. Into the wind, against the current I paddled. Lesson four: Remember the basics. There are basic skills to paddling well just as there are basic skills for most things. Even Unity has five basic Unity Principles that guide our way. As I paddled, I remembered the basic skills I learned in a kayaking class over twenty-two years ago. Finally, I fell into a rhythm and rather than resisting the choppy water, I paddled in harmony with it.
As I write these words, I recall the tension that built in my body and in my mind. When I was able to breathe, relax into the experience, I was better able to make my way back to the dock. Lesson five: the way may be rough and hard, yet I am strong and resilient to do what I need to do.
Everyday living is an opportunity to move beyond the surface of life, to practice all that we say we believe and to build our faith and strength. Life is one great adventure after another. Who would like to kayak with me next time?