Sunday, April 14, 2013

What a Seven-Year Old Knows

My friend took this photograph of me the morning I learned to kayak. I'm in the last red kayak next to the log, holding on for dear life with my paddle.

I'd wanted to learn to kayak for quite a while and one day, I met a man at the local hardware store. We struck up a conversation and he invited me to join a kayak group that doubles as a conservation group for the creek. I'm all for living green and I was very curious, so I accepted his invitation. I drove out and met the group and had nice conversations before it was time to put our kayaks in the water.

Actually, I didn't learn to kayak, I take that back. There were no instructions beforehand. The group leader pointed to a red kayak, handed me a life vest and told me to follow the group to the creek. Then, he smiled. "This is your first time, isn't it?" to which I said yes. He told me not to worry, adding that kayaking is as easy as walking. I laughed that I hoped it would be and he went ahead of the group, leaving me to drag my kayak to the edge of the creek. I'd hoped that there would be someone at the mouth of the creek helping people into their kayaks, but there was no one. They'd all gone ahead and I was the last woman standing. I was on my own and I noticed that my pulse had quickened. I could already tell that I was in for one helluva workout just from pulling the kayak!

I donned the life vest, slid down the muddy embankment and stepped into my rocking kayak. It soon became apparent to me that this would be a learning experience. A hands-on training of the solo variety. So, I copied what everyone else did and soon, I was at that log in the photograph, listening to the group leader welcome us all and wish us a great ride. A great ride? Were there rapids on this trip that no one had bothered to tell me about?! It was obvious everyone but me had kayaked before, but I was up for the challenge! And besides, there were children kayaking for goodness sake. If a seven-year old could kayak, I was going to be okay, I told myself. These parents wouldn't allow children to kayak if this was dangerous. Right?

Let me tell you, kayaking is easy in a swollen creek or river, but it hadn't rained for quite a while. There were times when we all had to drag our kayaks across rocks and pebbles to catch the current and many times, I was ahead and other times, I was dead last. I had nice, brief conversations as people passed me, others waved to me, and after an hour, a seven-year old boy and I managed to meet up. I asked him if he'd kayaked before and he said yes. Where was his mother, I asked and he pointed up river. "She and my brother have gone ahead." I could tell the boy was tired and so, I slowed down because I knew if I went ahead, he would be alone as we were the last two at that point. Had I just been appointed his guardian for the day? This was my first rodeo for heaven's sake! I barely knew what to do myself! I couldn't be in charge of this beautiful boy!

Well, I believe things happen for a reason, so I just allowed the day to unfold. I enjoyed the present and decided that I wouldn't worry about the future...but this kid. I hadn't counted on babysitting on my first day of kayaking!

The morning was chilly and the sun was glorious. My seven-year old friend turned out to be delightful company. He graciously shared a granola bar with me and we managed to stop a couple of times to take photos and the boy remained with me. I knew he could have gone ahead, but for some reason, he stayed by my side. I thought back to my own kids and how over-protective I was and how I couldn't have fathomed leaving them behind on a creek. I wasn't judging, but in awe of his mother's total confidence in her child's abilities. I knew my kids were capable, as well, but to leave them alone? Not on my watch.

At one point, the boy and I both had to use the 'facilities' and we held each other's kayaks as we did our business. We had a good laugh about hiding from the group and poison ivy and at one point, I nearly lost his kayak as I tried to take a photograph and let go for an instant. We took our time, meandering along the creek and I saw things on the creek that only a child sees. He pointed out bird's nests and knew many of the birds that flew around us. I loved that a seven-year old was teaching me. Maybe he thought I needed assistance and didn't want to leave ME!

We shared a magical two and a half hours and I was thankful to have this curious, intelligent boy with me. He was great company and as we neared the end of the trip, the boy asked me to race him to the finish line. We paddled for our lives and of course, he beat me :) As we pulled our kayaks onto the embankment, the boy pulled his kayak up the hill and disappeared without saying goodbye. I was kinda sad that I couldn't thank him for being my travel buddy. We'd spent all morning together and he left? Just like that?

And then, the boy returned. He slid down the embankment with a huge grin on his face and took my kayak rope from me and pulled my kayak up the hill. Amazing. What a charmer :) I told him how much I'd enjoyed spending the morning with him and gave him a big hug. His mother came over with his brother and I told her what a wonderful, kind young man she'd raised, a real gentleman. She smiled and agreed as she tussled his hair.

What a beautiful morning :) I can't wait to go back. I don't know if I'll ever see the boy again, but I'll never forget him. I'd conquered creek kayaking. I felt the fear and did it anyway. I was proud of myself!

Peace and love to you,
Ellie

3 comments:

  1. What a wonderful story, E! You and your men - of all ages! I've missed visiting your blog and will try to do better. Life and work are constantly intruding on my fun!

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  2. Ha ha! Linda, you are too funny and yes, he was a real charmer! Hey, slow down a bit, you're making the rest of us look bad! LOL! Be well!

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  3. I'm back and taking your advice, for today at least! My weekend will be busy, so I refuse to feel guilty about being a layabout today.

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