Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Beaver sign...and paddling

The peeled branches and logs are leftovers from the beaver. They eat the bark. In the center of the photo is a beaver drag (the thinner spot in the cattails). They drag the branches to the water where they can evade predators if necessary. The lodge is about 100 yards north from here.I portage to the lake during morning rush hour. It is a strange time to walk a canoe through the city. People in cars are so rushed and so cut off from everything else. Cars are convenient, but there is more than a monetary cost to them. I stop and talk for five minutes with the crossing guard at a school. We have seen each other several times before. This time he wants to know more, and so I tell him about my project and where I am probably going today. Mostly, I enjoy the brief unplanned meeting with someone that I don't know. It is something to savor. It makes the city a home.
The big lake is calm, the sky overcast, but the air near the surface is clear and distant features are distinct. As I paddle north, thoughts race through my head. Most have nothing to do with canoeing except that canoeing has brought them forth. Then I settle on paddle strokes, a remembering of an article that I read on wikipedia. The write told all about dozens of distinct paddle strokes. I think he was a Brit... it was neatly categorized in the way that British sports writing often is. He told about the power stroke, the J stroke, the Canadian J stroke, the feather, the draw and more. Nice and neat, clean and precise. Exactly like paddling isn't, at least once you have become one with the canoe. In reality, the power stroke merges with the J, which might or might not become a Canadian J, which slides into a feather if need be, and the feather becomes a C or a draw, to avoid a rock. They overlap, they merge, they blend. And they do it without thought, like piano players working a fast piece. The arm, the wrist, and the paddle simply do what is needed to point the canoe where it should point. It's hard to explain, it's pointless to teach. Put your time in. It will happen.


P A D D E L B L O G said...

Well said. Most of us don't even know what kind of strokes we use. It's okay as long as the boat does what we want it to do. And if it doesn't - well most of the time I can even adapt to that.

Kathleen Faulkner said...

Your description could be applied to other areas, as well. In art, for instance, there are formulas, rules, step by step instructions, etc., but, once one is in the midst of it all, it becomes automatic with not a thought to the rules... a meditation of sorts.