We love spending time at our favorite lake in the summer. I love watching the water in all its moods – but when it’s calm and still like glass, nothing beats taking the canoe and spending some peaceful moments paddling along the shore. My son even took this gorgeous picture at sunset one night while he was canoeing alone:
One of our funniest family memories together was the day we packed up our gear and decided to take a canoe trip down a local river. I promised the kids a beautiful day of paddling, picnicking and “shooting the rapids.” What we got was a day of lost shoes, bickering, mosquito bites, tears and breathless laughter.
We drove the hour or so to the river, rented our canoes and paddles, and divided up. Eric and I took one canoe, the girls shared a second, and Will got his own boat. The day was hilarious – Eric lost his shoe in the muddy river bottom as he tried to launch the kids (he was furious), mosquitoes were literally biting Will until he cried, and when we hit the rapids that took us through a short tunnel, our canoe flipped, sending every single thing in the boat into the swirling water, soaking us and making the kids scream, thinking we were having some catastrophic accident. And after that, when we finally got things collected and put back into the canoes, the river ended and we had to carry the boats up an embankment and over a two-lane road to access another part of the river.
That’s the tough part of canoeing – portage. You come to an impassible point, or a place where the water ends and you have to walk across land to connect with new water, and you have to portage the boat. (Definition: the carrying of a boat or its cargo between bodies of water, over land, or around an obstacle). In other words, you’re sailing along, and you hit an obstacle – a clump of brush, rocks, or a maybe a waterfall – and you have to paddle to shore, put the canoe and all your gear on your back, and carry it around to a point where you can re-launch. And it’s not an easy thing to do, especially by yourself. Or for us that day, with three young kids, three boats, and lots of soggy wet gear.
That’s what happens to us so much in life – we’re sailing along, the water is smooth – and then we hit a rough patch. Or we have to portage – carry our heavy gear and our little boats to the next safe place to set sail again. We need help – it’s tough to do alone – and the more hands we have to help the easier the portage will be. I love the parallels it has with life!
It has been a great April. It’s been busy, but with all good things, and I’ve spent time just being thankful for the people I love and the community I call home. We are in some transitions right now – our twins turned 16, which was bitter and sweet; a friend is moving away, which is good for her and sad for me; but these transitions have me thinking about all the times in our lives we portage. We heave those boats and gear on our shoulders and cross to the next body of water – and we need to be thankful for those who are there to help shoulder the load. You can paddle and navigate by yourself, but if you have to portage, it’s nice to have a friend by your side.
So I’m grateful this month for those who are around me and have helped me carry some burdens – heavy and light – and who also let me help carry theirs.
And, I’m looking forward to school being out, more memories being made, and more time on the water this summer.