Archive for Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Shouts and murmurs: Paddling through simple lessons

June 8, 2005

I have never been accused of being an athlete.

This lack of a talent has often made me feel inept. And this lack of a talent is probably why as a child I preferred reading books, playing with dolls and baking cookies to swinging a baseball bat or running a mile.

In grade school I was the proverbial last girl chosen by classmates to be on their teams in physical education class. And to this day I can not turn a cartwheel, which considering my age is probably a good thing.

Two years ago my oldest son bought a kayak. I watched him maneuver it across the water, amazed at the balance it must take to keep from flipping over. Though I am a fairly strong swimmer, I decided right away, kayaking was not for me. It looked a little too precarious.

Nearly four years ago, Leo Oelschlaeger and his son David Oelschlaeger dug a pond for my husband near our backyard.

The first evening after the pond was dug my husband and I walked into the bowl of the pond, some 15 feet deep. Just for fun, we lay on the bottom of the dry pond and looked up at the autumn sky that seemed so much farther overhead. Leaves from the trees in the nearby woods swirled in the sky above.

It reminded me of a story in a grade school reader, about a Chinese fisherman who could stretch his legs to reach the bottom and catch the most fish, making all the other fishermen murderously jealous.

The next day a good rain soaked the earth, leaving a puddle in the pond, which hasn't been dry since. But we didn't anticipate then that we were on the cusp of a several-year drought and it would take almost four years for Mother Nature to fill the pond.

On summer evenings we'd go out on the dock my husband built, sit on the edge and dangle our toes, occasionally reaching water, but usually not.

Finally last week seven inches or so of rainfall did the trick. Water is now touching the dock, we can dangle our feet in the water all we want. Sunday, my son put his kayak in the pond and tried it out. My family joined in, taking turns one by one. I was amazed to see everyone's success in the kayak. Even my 8-year-old nephew maneuvered it with some apparent degree of skill.

When my brother handed me the paddle and said give it a try, I didn't hesitate.

Contrary to what I had thought, the joy of having a pond filled with water is more than sitting on the dock, or in very warm weather, going for a swim. It's also more than feeling the warm sunshine on your back as you lean against the rail taking in the countryside scenery.

It's about taking to the water in a boat, no matter how old, or young at heart, we are. And it's about learning we're capable of doing more than we thought we could do, even if it's as simple a thing as donning a lifejacket and paddling a kayak around the pond.

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