My Therapy Kayak

I always wanted to like canoeing, but for whatever reason the skills elude me.  This has led to multiple canoeing experiences memorable only because they did not go well AT ALL.  But the first time I was in a kayak I knew I had found a sport I loved.

I have had it in my head for a while that at whatever time we move back to Canada, I would like to take up kayaking.  When we found ourselves here last fall, it seemed like a good idea.

I had to find a kayak that I would actually be able to use, so I bought an expensive one that folds up into our trunk – and then began learning how to use it.

One of the things that happened after Beatrix’s death was that my back, shoulders, and neck hurt so much.  This has happened to me under stress for as long as I can remember, but since August I have had muscle pain on an unmanageable level.  Massage helped – but I found that after about a week, I was all tied up again.  It took me a while to realize that after I started kayaking, those muscles didn’t hurt anymore.  (Well, that’s not entirely true, but instead it was the satisfying ache of well-used muscles.)

Another thing I found was it was actually so much better than going in to see a professional counselor.  (For me, in this context.  I think in many circumstances it can be a really helpful thing, so I don’t want to seem like I am making any sweeping statements.)  But I often came back after kayaking having come to peace with some issue.  It has given me space, time, and beauty, to help work out my healing.  (Actually, most of my blogs have been inspired while kayaking.)

Having a physical challenge (e.g. I’m going to paddle to that island and back), has satisfied a need I have.  Especially in this season of producing nothing, and often feeling like I am making little progress, achieving tangible goals has been a balm.

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Harrison Lake, BC

I can’t say enough about the beauty…  It’s impossible for me to describe in words the healing power of being immersed in natural beauty.

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Harrison River –  photo credit to my brother, Ed Wig

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Deep Cove, Vancouver

I also feel ridiculously privileged for all of the rich experiences I’ve had this year.

I kayaked on the east and west coasts of Canada.

I kayaked on the Harrison river in October – and so in addition to experiencing the salmon run, I saw several otters and dozens of bald eagles.

I kayaked through an eerie morning fog in a salt water marsh in the Rachel Carson National Wildlife reserve in Maine.

I kayaked out to an island in the Saint Lawrence Seaway.  (This one didn’t go at all as intended.  Instead of a beautiful, peaceful paddle, it turned into a memorable tidal experience.)

I’m planning to get out on Lake Superior next week.

These things all sound incredible when I talk about them this way.  I’m grateful.  However, (as with most things), I have found that just getting out regularly on a nearby lake has been the most important thing.  I’ve been trying to break it down so that I can explain it, but I find myself at a loss to describe these mysterious encounters with Creator and Creation.  It is good.

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Hard Days

Mother’s Day just passed.  We were with friends, and it was also their anniversary – we celebrated both important things together.  (And since Mother’s Day has never been a huge deal to me, it wasn’t this time, either.)  (I mean, Mike & I cooked supper with the kids, including a shopping trip.  Our strategy was divide and conquer: Mike looked around with the 2 girls, while I kept the baby in the stroller and actually got the food.  The baby fell asleep in the stroller as we were walking around the store, and so everyone was making such sweet faces at the two of us, and wishing me Happy Mother’s Day.  It felt a little like I should have been feeling sad, but I was just enjoying the whole experience.)

Today marks 9 months since Beatrix died.  It is also the 40th birthday of a dear friend…  and her nephew Jonathan was born today, 2 years ago.  Jonathan’s parents, Amiss & Marieth, got to spend just a few days with him before he died.

So I’m crying this morning.  Mourning our lost babies.

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There are more hard days coming – Beatrix’s birthday in July, and then the day marking one year since her death a few weeks later.  (I’m not sure what to call it – “anniversary” should be celebratory).

For me, the emotional work is usually done ahead of time, as I pray and ponder the implications of each day passing, remember what has gone before, and try to decide what to do.  As of now, I don’t know what we will do for those days; how we will spend them.  But I know this: they will come, and they will pass.  And I know this: if we face them with as much courage as we can muster, we will receive comfort, and the days that follow will be easier because we’re not deflecting the pain.

The last time I did this…

We did it – 26 hours of travelling all in one stretch.

I really like to drive all night, once in a while, when the situation warrants it.  You get to visit, listen to music, listen to teaching, and put a lot of miles behind you.

The other night I heard this bit that I wanted to share with you – move it forward to around 26:30, then listen for about a minute until he finishes the story. (click here)

For those of you who know me, especially from my younger years, you will laugh and think, “of course she likes that.”  (Ahem, mom.) But I think it reflects something that we desperately need in our discourse right now.

 

Anyway, we had a very long way to go.  This is by far the longest stretch on our journey with no one to visit on the way.  Our original plan of where to stay didn’t work out, and I resented paying for a hotel room when we would just have a very short sleep (or to take the trip over 3 days and pay for 2 hotels), and I wasn’t particularly concerned with seeing all the landscape.  It worked really well because a couple areas could have been really difficult to navigate since I’m not really used to city driving.  Our route took us right through downtown Chicago – but at 1 am instead of at 9 am, so it was fairly simple.

The other reason, is that this is one of the “last times.”

The last time we drove all night was a few days before Beatrix died.

We were camping with my family, just for a couple days, and we wanted to get every moment out of that that we could.  And then we were headed to an event, a lot of miles away, that we didn’t want to miss any of.  Plus, travelling with a toddler for hours and hours on end isn’t really fun for anyone – and we wanted to have a bit of good family time, just us, in between things with large groups of people she didn’t know well in strange locations.  SO:  We laid her down in the tent, then watched some of the meteor shower with my cousins and my parents.  At about midnight, we transferred her to the carseat and drove as far as we could while she slept.

Once she woke up, we stopped at almost every town.  I think it took us something like 13 hours to put 6 hours of driving behind us.  But we played at parks, we picnicked, we spent time playing with her, and generally took it easy.  (I mean, Mike and I were up all night, we needed to go easy too.)  By the end, Beatrix was really tired of travelling, too.  When she didn’t want to listen to any of the kids music she usually liked, we just put on music we liked and sang loud along with it.  (I remember her bewildered smile.  She wanted to be grumpy but couldn’t resist participating when her parents were having fun.)

It was a Really Good Day.

There are a lot of things, that the “last time” I did this was with Beatrix.  I’m pretty sure I’ll never eat corn without thinking of her – but I like corn, and don’t want to give up eating it because it holds memories.  So I ate corn when it was put in front of me shortly after her death.  And I decided to enjoy the taste, even though just the sight of it made me want to weep.  (And so what if it does?  Nearly everything makes me cry.)  If there is too long of a space, between the time of memory and the time of doing it again, then it becomes too hard, too difficult to face, too difficult to change when the “last time” I did this was.

So now, I still have that sweet memory of driving through the night, and seeing the meteor shower, and then having a really happy day as a family.

But the last time I drove through the night was across the US on the way to see good friends.