Monday, March 2, 2009
Don't Despair. Spring Will Come
By the look of the weather today -- lots of snow, forecasts of below-zero temps tonight -- it almost seems as if I jinxed Spring's advent by celebrating it. I know I mustn't despair. But as the image up there says, the waiting is very hard. The picture is an ad for Hornbeck Boats that appeared in a recent Adirondack Explorer, and it captures a paddler's longings exactly. (And that's my own darling boat in the photo.)
Sure, I love Winter. I guess that's pretty obvious from this blog. But oh! there's nothing like slipping along in the cool blue water, swift and silent as a water snake, surprising a mink at its morning meal, flushing a flurry of baby mergansers (they actually run on the surface of the water!), following a belted kingfisher in its looping, swooping overhead flight from tree to tree. Or paddling out on a starlit night in the crystalline mountain air, the Milky Way shining above as bright as a silver river. Or moving across a glassy lake on a cool autumn dawn, the rising mist as warm and soft as a baby's blanket (it's like being kissed all over). Oh, Jackie, stop! Don't torture yourself! Okay.
My little Hornbeck canoe truly changed my life. For years I used to have bouts of depression, often in spring, of all things. I knew from my youth growing up in a boatyard that it lifted my spirits to go for a paddle, but the aluminum canoe I owned weighed around 80 pounds, and no way could I get that thing on the car by myself. Then, about 15 years ago, all my family members pitched in and bought me a Hornbeck Kevlar canoe for my birthday. It weighed 17 pounds. I could lift it myself. I could carry it through the woods or even up mountains. I promptly abandoned all but required work at home: time spent vacuuming the rugs or mowing the lawn was time I couldn't be on the river.
My boat became my portable zendo, my meditation chamber, my way to find silence and solitude; it carried me, at last, to genuine solace. Depressions left, and haven't been back again. When I'm in my canoe, drifting along, my attention drawn by the myriad wonders around me, I don't need to do anything, or go anywhere: I'm already there. I don't need to earn my right to a place on this planet: like all the creatures I find in the woods and the water, my being is simply sheer gift. Suffering and death assume their place in the total scheme of things, subsumed, it seems, by a great, great goodness that lies at the core of creation.
Many authors have written about the healing power of nature. To that I say Amen! I know, because I've lived it. Thanks be to God for this beautiful world. And thanks to my family, who gave me my beautiful boat. And finally, thanks to Peter Hornbeck, who designed the canoe that changed my life (and who gave me a really good deal when I purchased an even lighter model: the 12-pound Black Jack, made of carbon fiber).
Oh yes. And thanks be for showshoes. Even if winter does run too long, the shoes make the season a reason for celebration.