Category: My Personal Post

Labor Day 2009, South Presidentials w/ Arlo and Dana

November 17th, 2009 — 9:08pm



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Kanawa Canoe Magazine Article

November 14th, 2009 — 6:22pm


“Do you want the last smoked oyster?”

“No, you have it, Studge.”

We are ten days into the trip and the repetition of tripping lunches, not to mention too much sun and a long morning in the boat are all starting to take their toll on my appetite. We pack up the wannigan and slip back onto the water, heading south to Great Slave Lake. We are on the Beaulieu River in the Northwest Territories and the afternoon is warm and nearly windless. Its one of those days up here where you look at the sky again after an hour and see exactly the same cloud formation in the same place. The next three hours will see us across the ten miles of Watta Lake so we settle into our rhythm as the canoe slides over the glassy surface. I am paddling in the bow, my eyes closed to the reflection of the sun on the water and the post-lunch stupor beginning to take up residence in my brain. After 25 years and hundreds of thousands of strokes, no conscious thought of the process is required. Reach forward, but not too far. Slide the paddle through the surface tension, matching the pace of the boat. Pull, then follow through on the glide and then start it all over again. And again and again and again……

My eyes pop open and my first thought is the realization that I’ve been sleeping; and not just for a few seconds, either. Next is surprise at the fact that I’m still paddling and in perfect rhythm no less. I steal a peek back at Studge and see that he has no idea I’d checked out for awhile.

We travel on and as I reflect on the experience I begin to understand something. A chiropractor by trade, I work with the stuff of nerves and patterns, searching for the frequency of adaptation in the body. When I paddled and dozed, I was playing out a basic truth; that life is expressed as an infinite number of wave patterns. In mammals, some examples of this are the contraction and dilation of the heart, the rise and fall of respiration, the pulsing of cerebro-spinal fluid and the peristalsis of the intestine. Even the time-line from conception to death follows a single wave pattern. In nature, the repeating cycle of high pressure systems alternating with low pressure, the movement of water from the sky to the surface and back and the cycle of the seasons are some of the seemingly endless variations of this universal motion.

For me, paddling has become one of these life frequencies. There are days deep in a trip when the cycle of the paddle stroke makes me feel so whole and perfectly right that I imagine it to be akin to what a buddhist monk experiences after years of being “present” from meditation and fasting. The rhythm begins to sustain and enable me not unlike the rhythms elemental in nature. It is so deeply rooted in my core that, under the right circumstances consciousness would appear to be optional. The inner beat begins to act as a bridge to my awareness of the subtleties and infinite variations of the rhythms all around me in this remarkable place.

The undulation of a grayling as it glides upstream in a shallow section of the river, the powerful winging of the bald eagle as it takes off from the bank ahead, intent on leading us down the next section of water, the rows of waves stretching to the horizon on one of the big lakes and the rhythmic sound of their breaking on the rocky shore, the vibration of the wings of a dragonfly as it perches on the gunwhale of the canoe, poised for flight. And over everything, this dream-like hum which seems the very frequency of the land itself, binding it all together.

I come back here time and again to simultaneously find and lose myself in the embrace of this place. Deepak Chopra says that all addictions are really just our attempt to re-discover pure joy. If so, I must be a canoe-tripping junkie, catching the waves again and again.

“Pasta or rice pilaf tonight, Studge?”

Stuart M. Grey

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