In January of 2014 I had aimed to try one new thing a month. That new 'thing' could be anything from a new activity to trying new food, something big or something seemingly small. It just had to be something I had never done before. I've stuck with that resolution through 2014 and up to this point in 2015. I actually look forward to the start of the month and figuring out what new thing I'm going to try. Over the past year and a half I have completed a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, cut my hair very short, tried eating rabbit and octopus, taken painting classes; all kinds of things that I never thought I would do or felt intimidated at the thought of trying. Somehow just knowing that I only had to try whatever activity I was doing once made it easier because I was only trying it once I wasn't really committed.
So far I've learned that putting together jigsaw puzzles is really difficult and yet addictive. Short hair is fun for a while but I miss ponytails. I like octopus but not rabbit. And I'm not that terrible at painting. Some of the activities I've incorporated into my regular habits. Painting is one of them. I try to paint every few weeks or at least draw. Finding a way to express myself creatively has changed the way I look at the world around me. Leaves on the trees have so many different shapes beyond what we typically think of as a 'leaf' and the colours give our world a depth that I wasn't aware of before I tried to paint what was around me.
But the best new thing that I have tried over the past year has been kayaking. Last summer for whatever reason, my husband bought me a used kayak. He thought I'd like it. I have no idea what possessed him to do that for me, but I'm happy now he did. My husband and I have canoed together quite a bit and truthfully what I love about canoeing is that he does a majority of the work. He steers, carries the canoe and I can usually get in and out of the water without getting my feet wet. (I'm a bit of a princess at times.) Don't get me wrong, I do work in a canoe. I paddle, I warn my husband of rocks and logs in the water and I carry our supplies, I just wouldn't canoe unless he did the work. So when the kayak appeared I felt a little apprehensive. I would have to steer, carry and control this thing all by myself. Most of all I would be putting myself in and out of the water... my feet would be getting wet.
The first time I took my kayak out, we were in Killarney with 2 of our friends. My husband and our friends went in the canoe and I went in my kayak. They were shortly out of sight and I was alone in the water. At first I was frustrated trying to keep up but eventually I just enjoyed the ride. It took me a long time to get anywhere and I didn't feel smooth or fluid in my paddling. The kayak wouldn't stay straight, I kept trying to not solely use my arms and it was really, really hard work. My first paddle was in September 2014 and I didn't go out again until this spring. We were heading to the family cottage on Lake Huron and my husband packed my kayak. I admit, I felt obligated to take it out in the water since he had brought it so far. I took it out in the first two hours we were there just incase I didn't get the chance over the weekend. Surprisingly to me, paddling was much easier this time. I ending up going out two more times over the course of the weekend.
After that experience, I decided that I would try to go out on my own. No help from anyone to load the kayak or carry it or put it in the water. I would do this all on my own. I know to a lot of people this doesn't sound like a great task. Really, if someone wants to go out and paddle their kayak, they should. Also I am a very strong swimmer, I have a healthy respect for water always wearing my pfd but I'm not terrified to be on the water. However, I was overwhelmed at the thought of lifting, loading and tying down all of my own. But as I am learning limiting beliefs have a way of holding us back and the best way around them is to look those fears straight in the eye.
I live within five minutes of the Grand River, a perfect spot to paddle and I can easily park and carry my kayak to a water access point. The first time I went out, I gave myself lots of time to load my kayak and carry it too the put in spot only to realize I had forgotten my paddle. But I just returned home and picked it up and still went out - strike while the iron is hot! My first paddle went really well. I loaded everything up, got my feet wet, travelled upstream and down. Immediately when I got in the water, a Great Blue Heron flew from a spot where I assume it was fishing and watched me from across the river. During my paddle, a Grey Jay flew from tree to tree ahead of me both up and down the river almost like my personal guide. I also saw a second Heron further up stream. I've been out quite a few times on my own since that first trip and love the solitude I feel on the river. I have seen a whole family of Grey Jays, two juvenile Great Blue Herons, Mallard chicks and amazing views of cliffs and hidden water falls then I never knew existed. It takes me about 45 minutes to paddle up and down the river and I am becoming more confident in my ability to maneuver my kayak. I've learned by adjusting the lean on my seat I am able to utilize my core much more efficiently increasing my stroke strength. I know how to carry my kayak and load it into my truck and I feel pretty resilient doing so.
But what I love most about being in the water is the vantage point I get that feels like a secret from everyone staying on land. Even though I can often hear people talking or traffic, people don't get to see the world from the watery point I'm at. I've seen beautiful birds and watched fish and frogs dart about under the surface. Most importantly, I've experienced a sense of tranquility that brings me back to understanding the most basic and yet most important thing about life. It is just in the present moment that truly matters. Watching the birds and other wildlife, they aren't concerned about yesterday or what's happening tomorrow. It is only the current place and time that deserve our attention.