Last week I was embarking on a new journey full of challenges and new experiences.
I was offered to join a small group of people to go on a 3 day, 3 night adventure with the canoe into the Northwoods of Wisconsin. It was organized and facilitated by the Teaching Drum Outdoor School, so the main goal was a full immersion into the land and to learn and experience to use simple (some would say primitive) tools and techniques to help to get really connected with the natural world around you.
we are starting…
When we started, my feelings were a mix of excitment, curiosity and fear, which is a mix I know all to well, since most of my adventures start off like that. The only difference might be the intensity of one feeling over another.
So when we started practicing the different techniques, I felt pretty confident. I felt like I understood them, and so all would be fine. But when we then embarked on our journey up the river, it soon became very apparent to me, that understanding how it works and having sort of done it a few times isn’t enough. By the fifth paddle-stroke, the others were far in front of me. And after another five, they had disappeared behind a bend in the river.
the first challenges
Thoughts and worries came up, that they would have to wait and be annoyed with me soon after. But I kept reminding myself to just focus on the paddling technique and to make sublte changes in the position of the paddle so that I can slowly but surely learn the different reactions of the boat to the different actions of the paddle. And in a way, I was glad that I didn’t see them any more. That way it felt like I was alone on the river, and had all the time in the world to figure this out. It felt like the river and the surroundings were comforting me, giving me the space to learn in my own time. – And since practice makes perfect, I did get better the longer I paddled and adjusted and learned the movements. I still had my own slower tempo, but I didn’t feel like going much faster anyway. – After all, I wanted to really connect and take in the landscape and my surroundings.
On our second day, I already noticed some improvements. Eventhough I was still the slowest of the group, I had figured out the steering to some degree, and there were moments, where I just felt one with the river, the boat, the paddle, the surrounding plants – in short: one with that ecosystem “river”. I didn’t think of paddling any more, but just quietly and elegantly floated along. This experience had such a calming effect, that I can still connect with that feeling now, a few days later, back in a warm and dry house.
Our third day however held a very special gift. So subtle, yet so powerful. Already during the night it had started to rain, and it didn’t stop all day. So the only thing that sane outdoor people can do is to stay in our shelter, stay as dry and warm as possible and take the time to reflect on your life, write, sleep, observe whatever it is that you can observe from your shelter. – So even though the whole trip was focused on being a canoe trip, the most memorable and deep memories of all the participants was that one day where we could not do anything but “have a date with ourselves”.
it could go on forever
So on our forth day, even though there was light sleet coming down (so it must have been cold) on our way back, we all could have gone on paddling. We were so acclimatised that all the weather – even though we felt the cold and the wet – felt like no suffering at all. And I guess that is all we can ever hope for with any uncomfortable outside situation…
All the time we decide through our thoughts, if an experience feels positive or negative. If we are thankful for unexpected changes that we may not have wished for, but that turned out to be very valuable experiences. Or if we are disappointed because it didn’t go as we planned. In the end, it’s always in our hands.