Though the half moon was still out, it was on it's way down and out of the canyons. The darkness was accented by the vague silhouette of the canyons walls, the mountains and ridges. At night, the distant landscape collapses onto a 2 dimensional canvas colored with monotone variations of deep gray, black and
smatter of white for the stars. I could hear the gentle slapping of paddle to water and water to boat, but otherwise, the water was a silky glass reflecting perfectly all the images above and below. Often times, it seemed we were gliding among the stars, drifting easily across the night sky. During those ever so brief moments when I caught myself wondering why I was out on the water at 2 am in the morning paddling upstream, looking forward to an uphill hike and more paddling downstream (on less than 1 hour of restless sleep) within the next 8 hours, all I had to do was take a look around me. No, I couldn't say that I could actually "see" much; but boy, could I feel it. It's a privilege to experience nature in this way. In my opinion, all of nature is the grandest cathedral of human experience.
It was this feeling that made me think to "tread lightly" in the temple of life. Since the water was so quiet and calm, it was like walking into a huge sacred hall and immediately lowering your voice from a normal tone to barely a whisper. I wanted to "whisper" across the water with my boat. This is where I found the rhythm of my stroke, and discovered how to work with the river's natural flow of energy.
Describing all the pieces would sound to mundane to write, but essentially, I discovered that each time my paddle connected with the water with even the most minor of slaps, it would slow my pace ever so slightly because the slap of the water cuts into the flow and speed of the water, or boat (not to mention wasted energy on my part). When I could connected my paddle to the water without any slapping noise (I started my drawing motion just before my paddle connected with the water), I saw that my paddle paced the speed of the water perfectly and sliced into the river with an ease that actually added to the energy I transferred into the stroke, making me travel much faster. Also, I kept the paddle just to the outside of the wake, as if it were grabbing at a shoreline and pulling itself forward. It was an incredible feeling. As I became more consistent with the stroke, I picked up the pace and boy could I pick up some speed! Inevitably at this point, I would tire and slap the water ever so slightly. No matter how subtle, I could definitely feel it effect my speed.
So, once I found that stroke in the peaceful waters, I also got the opportunity to test out this stroke in choppier conditions. On the downstream journey, we found consistently choppier waters, either as a result of wind, or passing motorboats. Here, I actually found that the stroke worked equally well. It's a beautiful thing, paddling.
Only days ago, a friend mentioned something about meditation to me in passing. Here, on the water, in a kayak, with a paddle, working on stroke is a quintessential example of moving meditation. Imagine how many metaphors for life a person can find in paddling.
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