You never think your last paddle will be your last paddle. You watch the weather, pack your gear bag, sometimes even have the kayak loaded on the top of the car so you can put in somewhere on the way home from work in those last moments of warmish daylight. Three weeks ago I was able to get out on Hubbard Pond and paddle amongst the rusted hues of a beautiful New Hampshire fall. It was a wonderful day floating in the shadow of Mount Monadnock. I thoroughly enjoyed my time out knowing full well that it IS October and these moments were getting few and far between.
Since then I’ve been watching the weather reports and waiting for that perfect time to get out just one….. last…… time. I thought that was going to be this morning. Bag was packed, alarm was set, warm clothes waiting. I woke up to grey skies and dampness that prompted me to light a fire in the wood stove to take off the chill in the house. Not a great sign. The sun has peeped through the clouds a couple times and I’ve gone and looked eagerly out the window like a kid waiting for the Ding Dong kart to come down the road.
I hear it…… Nope.
Each time the sun slipped back behind the dreariness of November. I’m sitting here moping and realizing that my last time out was my last time out for the year. Winter is coming and the kayaks need to go into the basement and the rack come off my car.
This is a sad day. Let us just take a moment…..
I’ve always hated winter. Even as a kid with Wonderbread plastic over my socks inside my black boots that would notoriously end up lost in a snowbank somewhere, I hated winter. It’s cold. It’s dark. Did I mention it’s cold?!? I couldn’t grab my book and go climb the willow tree in the back yard and read without freezing my rear end off. I couldn’t go traipsing through the woods or exploring along the river bank without getting stuck or falling in and freezing my rear end off. I just couldn’t do the things I liked to do and that feeling has continued into my adult hood.
I kayaked for the first time in 2014. Up until then I had been a hiker. Being in the woods surrounded by trees and the sound of birds and trickling water and leaves rustling together just helped me to unwind. When my mother passed away in 2011 I spent six hours sitting under a pine tree on the shore of a pond just staring up into the sky to flush out all of the busyness and emotions of that week before returning to my regular day to day. This is how I fix myself. It’s how I let my mind run through the things it needs to make sense of everything and put the pieces back together in some way that allows me to function again. Hiking and being in the woods was amazing. When I was introduced to kayaking it was magical. It has all of the benefits of hiking, but you are literally floating. Close your eyes and it’s dreamy. In the middle of a quiet pond, lake, or bay it has the power to take all of the chaos in my head and calm the thoughts almost instantaneously.
Float…… Breathe….. Magic.
My $250 kayak has been better than any therapist. It has seen me through break-ups and job loss and just overall crappy days. Losing my job was rough. Really rough. It pulls at pieces of you until your foundation is riddled with holes and leaves you ready to collapse like a Jenga tower, all of your parts shattering onto the floor in one fell swoop. Confidence, self-esteem, finances, your ability to enjoy the little things. Crash! I struggle with anxiety so I had to work hard at trying to maintain my sanity. I kayaked A LOT. I hiked a lot too. I wandered from my back yard to the Adirondacks and lots of places in between. I kept things manageably together and my little orange beauty earned itself a gold star. Even though I’m back to work and life is essentially good I still need those moments of magic to take the edge off, to breathe out the stress and let the good thoughts and sunshine in.
Apparently not today, though. Today it goes in the basement to wait out winter. I’ll end up wandering out into Pisgah for a hike with my dog for a while. It’s just not the same…..
Over the next few months I will be watching the weather reports for early signs of spring and a chance to get back out on the water. And if that groundhog thinks he’s going to mess with me and predict an extended winter I may just find myself hunting rodents in Punxsutawney.