“Turn your face toward the sun and the shadows will fall behind you.” ~Maori Prover
Life is about lessons, would you not agree? If we’re not learning every day, all the time, then what on earth are we doing? Often, the universe speaks to us in gentle metaphor, and if we’re completely present in the moment, we can recognize lessons, delivered in poetic images.
One of the clearest lessons of my life was a number of years ago, when I was living in a crumbling house in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. At the time, I was a single mother, raising my two children by working as a bartender at the Eastern Slope Inn. During my time there, I met and became friends with a wonderful woman, named Katy.
Katy is one of the best people on earth. She’s smart, funny, generous, and extremely kind. She also has an evil streak, which delights me. During my time in New Hampshire, one of my favorite ways to spend a summer day off was to kayak with her down the Saco River.
I’m not an outdoorsy type, but somehow or other Katy managed to talk me into kayaking. After my first experience, I was hooked. There’s something magical about observing life from the middle of a river.
One of the best things about kayaking for me was that very little effort or skill was required. It was a truly relaxing experience. The most difficult part was loading the kayaks onto the top of Katy’s car!
The plan for the day was always simple: We would take sandwiches, drinks, and towels, and pack them into “dry bags” to protect them from the water. We’d wade into the river and each one of us would climb into a kayak and set off downstream.
For the most part, the current would carry our kayaks along.
Sometimes, if things slowed down, we’d paddle a little. I’d angle my paddle this way and that, experimenting with different depths and strokes, practicing turning, and slowing down. I quickly developed a measure of confidence, piloting my little boat.
We’d navigate downriver for an hour or two and, when we got hungry, start scanning the shore for places to picnic. When we agreed on a spot, we’d hop out of our kayaks and wade onto the beach, drawing our boats high up on the sand, to make sure we didn’t lose them.