Observations From A Canoe


On a hot, muggy day recently we took a canoe trip down the Harpeth River.  While I had never been canoeing before, it was something I had wanted to do for quite awhile and I was excited to take four sons and one daughter-in-law along for the experience.  This summer has been dry and the water was low, warned the folks we rented the canoes from.  They advised that we may have to get out and push the canoes through the low water.  I admitted none of us had experience- could we have a brief tutorial?  After a very brief explanation of how to paddle, we were dropped off at the river's edge and left on our own to be picked up by the bridge in three hours.  

It looks so easy, I thought as we all set off.   I was with my daughter-in-law,  who sat in the stern and I sat in the bow.  We figured out pretty quickly we needed to communicate in order for us to paddle the canoe in the direction we wanted to go!  Does saying "left" mean let's go left around those rocks, or does it mean put your paddle on the left side of the boat?  After much laughter (and sometimes going around in circles) we got into a rhythm that allowed us to navigate our way to where we wanted to go.  One of the canoes, however, continued to have difficulty, in fact, tipping over twice.  Both of the paddlers wanted to be the leader and communication was unclear.  While some of us were able to negotiate our way through the shallows by "rocking" together, they had to get out and walk their canoe out through the rocks.  We all finally made it to the meeting place- hot, sweaty and sore, having a wonderful family memory to tuck away and talk about for years to come. 

That night, reflecting on our experience, it struck me that canoeing is much like relationships.  The importance of communication is key, and is an issue brought in by many couples.  "We just can't communicate," or "I don't feel heard" are frequent comments.  I am reminded of a Dan Fogelberg song (I guess that dates me!)  Hard to Say in which he speaks about being unlucky in love.  One of the verses go:
                                                                            It's never easy and it's never clear
                                                                          Who's to navigate and who's to steer
                                                                             And so you flounder drifting ever
                                                                                          Near the rocks

We all go through dry spells, rocky places in life and relationships just like the rocky places in the Harpeth.  Working together through the hard times is not always easy.  Sometimes you get stuck... and may need to ask for help. 

One other observation- a recent study indicated that spending money on life experiences rather than buying material possessions makes people happier. (The Journal of Positive Psychology, Vol. 4, No. 6, November 2009, 511–522.)

After spending the day with family laughing, participating in a new activity outdoors and enjoying nature, I tend to agree with that.