Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Healing Properties of Kayaks

Paula's kayak got her through some hard times.

“Big Blue” was a “free” kayak, acquired through a credit card rewards program on a whim. The bright blue two-person kayak caught her eye and she imagined her husband and herself on a northern Wisconsin lake. They’d never kayaked before. When it arrived, her husband, who hadn’t known she was getting it, asked what she planned to do with it. The two of them would stare at it out the window, as they drank their morning coffee. It began to grow on them. Maybe they’d use it after all. Until, suddenly, quite out of nowhere it seemed, her husband developed ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. Big Blue was stored and forgotten. And a year and a half later, Paula found herself a widow, sleepless, “roaming my house in search of a new life.”

A few days later, without intending to, Paula was researching kayaking. She found lessons offered 15 minutes from her house. The first day the kayak instructor asks everyone why they signed up. People say the expected, trips coming up, and such like. Almost everyone is part of a couple, planning a future adventure. “Suddenly I blurt, my husband died two weeks ago. I bought a tandem kayak for us, but we never got to use it. So I have no experience.” There was a long silence. No one responded. Paula was embarrassed for having cast a pall on the class.

A man, who had lost his wife to cancer, approached Paula later in the day and congratulated her on her courage. I do, too.

Seven years on, Paula has taken other kayak lessons, bought a “sleek and sultry single kayak” and generally spent far more than she thought was possible on the sport. She’s moved cities, changed careers, found new kayaking buddies, and, yes, even a new husband, who has his own single kayak. For seven years Big Blue followed Paula around, from rafter to rafter, as she built her new life. But the boat never touched water. Paula finally placed an ad. “For sale, Big Blue”—the boat had served its purpose, and more. It was time to find it another home.

We all have our challenges, when life throws us a curve ball. And when it does, remember Big Blue, think "courage."