Lessons From A Kayak Ride by William Klein

I went on a staff and faculty retreat with my new school. We had the choice between participating in events like learning chef skills to axe throwing, meditating or kayaking.  I chose kayaking as I haven’t been on the water all year but have been meaning to go.

It was a pleasant trip down a quiet and serene river with the exception of a few mishaps trying to control the kayak due to heavy wakes from boats.

My colleague and I went out to a break-wall that leads to the entrance to the lake.  We decided that the waves were getting choppy and too rough to handle, and it was time to turn around. He was able to turn his boat and head back.  I tried to do the same, but there were big waves coming in and I was parallel to a wave. As I continued to row, my boat tipped and splash, I was in the water.

I tried to turn my boat over, but it was full of water.  There was no way I was able to get back in without help. My colleague called to me, “I’m coming for you, Bill.  I’ve got your back.”  I called that I was “okay,” my foolish pride getting the better of me.  “Don’t worry about me, as I treaded water to figure out the situation.  “We’re in this together,” called my friend as he paddled to where I was.

It was deep and I was wearing a preserver.  My colleague said, “Hold on to me as you climb back in the boat.”  I reached over and grabbed a hold of his shoulder. He grimaced as I tried to wrap my arms around his neck and swing my legs back into the boat. It was comical and literally looked like Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber trying to climb in a boat.

Luckily I left my cell phone and wallet in my car.  I placed my car keys in a sandwich bag, but was conscious that they could very easily fall out of my pocket as I tried to get back in the boat. I gave him my soggy hat and Ray Bans and pulled out my keys to my car. I was able to get in the boat and a cheer rang out as my other colleagues came back to assist us.

They gave me a pump to pump the water that was up to the brim of the seat. My friend and I had been trying to pump the water out and he knew I was going nowhere fast.  I was shooting the water at another colleague who had come to help. You might want to shoot it into the lake instead of at her, my friend David said. More water was coming in as the waves shot over the boat. I tried to paddle out of it.

Unfortunately, upon entering the boat, my leg was wedged under the seat in an awkward fashion.  I wasn’t going to travel far without balance. As I tried to regain balance, I went over again.

A paddle boarder was close to us. My friend asked, “Any suggestions?”  He looked at us with a stern mug and slowly shook his head without saying a word. It was most sincere expression of “You’re screwed” that I have ever seen on another human being’s face. He paddled away. My friend looked at me and took note of it, too. “Thanks,” he said laughingly. We went back to solving our problem.

I had no choice but to swim in to shallow water, and get back in the boat.  I didn’t want to bring him down in the process of trying to get back in the boat, so he towed me, paddling his boat and me kicking as I held on to the stern of his boat.

We managed to get to a rock and an outcrop of tree limbs jutting out of craggy rock.  I slipped on the algea of rock, but managed to wade out of the water into about four feet. I grabbed the branches and pulled myself back into the boat that was still filled with water.  My friends and I pumped the water out of the boat as much as we could and we headed back to shore

There were lessons to be learned from this.

One. I was bold in rowing into the unknown.  Adventure is an enchantress, so one must know his limitations.

Two. When my boat flipped, I thought I would be able to get back and be all right.  As much as I would like to think I was going to be okay, I was wrong.  We can pump water out of our boats, but sometimes in life we’re moving to stand still. There were more challenges to endure even though a switch clicked on in my mind that gave me hope.

Three.  I had people there to support me. I’d only known them a matter of days, but they helped me and we bonded over the misadventure. Sometimes we’re in deep waters that are uncertain, but people are there for us.

Through it all I managed to find my way back to calm waters.  I made it.  It was nice to sit on the shore and laugh about the mishap that just occurred.  It was nice to be present to others and relish the gift of nature.

I think I may choose the option of meditating next time.

Photo by Ann Holko

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