By Kelly O’Day, Editor –
Speed-crawling on my knees across the rocky, muddy riverbed, chasing my semi-submerged solo canoe – just a short while after finally feeling I was getting the hang of it – I have to admit to myself I’m not doing quite as well as I hoped I would on this month of May jaunt down the Sugar River.
It felt a bit like this, only my flips weren’t voluntary. Kelly O’Day photo
That would be my second and final (thank the Lord) chilly dunking, and at least I didn’t have to beat myself up for poor technique. A submerged log dumped me before I could react. Now, the first, that one was on me. I had already circumnavigated numerous downed trees using Darren’s tips from his May “Handling Current” article, but this was a gap I thought I could shoot. Nope, a back-paddle ferry was called for, once again.
I asked Darren why I had bothered to take a shower that morning, and with a bit of concern he mentioned he had a hot tub to thaw me out later. I explained my feeble joke attempt: Why take a shower when you’re going to take two baths? Bad joke or no, I think it cheered Darren that I was still enjoying the experience.
He even bailed me out – literally, but also figuratively – mentioning an article about the value of continuing to do something despite less-than-stellar performance. It’s an interesting read, here: www.nytimes.com/2017/04/28/opinion/its-great-to-suck-at-surfing.html
I had always wanted to try a solo canoe; I enjoy my forays with my kayak, but a canoe would open up more room for gear for paddle camping. His light Wenonah canoes seemed just the ticket on the way to the shoreline, but as we were putting in, he mentioned the padded swath was for kneeling since the seats in typical narrow solo canoes leave your center of gravity too high for good balance in fast-moving water. I lasted barely 20 minutes before having to sit on the seat, the result of an old knee dislocation that allows me to bike and cross country ski at will, but crimps my running and, apparently, knee-paddling style.
By then Darren had already cleaned up my paddle technique with the foreign-to-me one-headed paddle. He tossed the canoeist banter at me, “Half the paddle, twice the paddler.”
Before leaving his house, Darren had mentioned I would want a change of clothes, but I skipped one more trip to my car when he said he had plenty in his waterproof backpack. Shivering on the shore at the end, my eyes popped when he pulled out said clothes, but warm is warm.
I speculated patrons of Mount Horeb’s Grumpy Troll would think Darren was treating a homeless person to lunch when they saw my Fozzy-Bear-meets-M.C.-Hammer fleece pants, and a quick look in the mirror during the after-lunch trip to the bathroom didn’t dissuade that notion. I found Albert Einstein staring back at me, river-bath hair pointing in every direction. No wonder the hostess had given me such a sweet, yet pitying, look.
Oh, by the way Mr. Taxman, Darren did indeed broach business with me that day.
The best reason for choosing to paddle on a dreary, cool, windy day is not the weather, but forging a relationship with another contributor to Silent Sports.
Darren was kind and generous to me. His observance of how we go outside every time we seek a personal spiritual experience rings so true. We enjoyed discussing a wide variety of subjects, even laughing about the misuse of quotation marks, and discovering we were kindred music spirits.
I’ve had similar experiences with several other members of our Silent Sports crew. I can honestly say all of our contributors have a lot to offer as people. Perhaps that’s why the stories they tell resonate with us.