Today, on this beautiful March day, we did something worthy of notation, celebration and not necessarily probation. With much preparation, and outstanding cooperation we took our river-worthy, no; sea-worthy, nay; tsunami-worthy crafts known as the cenu to the native Carïb people out of the bathtub of tranquil currents at the Chewonki waterfront and into the notorious moving-water river jungle known as the Sheepscot, or “Paddler’s Hell.”
If canoeing were easy, everyone would do it. So as those not brave enough, not courageous enough to conquer the beautifully untamed, almost angelic white-crested currents of the Sheepscot go to their confined domestic safe-havens in the cities, we few, we brave few, set out to capture the essence of an older, more primitive man. These early people from long ago lived in uncertainty as they worked with nature to survive.
With the canoe, however, they could thrive. They set out in their crafts, gliding across the glassy highways of an unknown world of bounty. Over the sides of the canoes that became as necessary to them as the skin on their backs, these people found not only their reflections, but they found themselves.
So on this day we guided our canoes back to their rightful homes on the river. With paddlers on the bow and stern and wise solo paddlers gracing us with their presence at lead and on sweep; with forward strokes, backstrokes, draws, pry and minks that leap we traveled down the river.
At first, the turkeys gobbled in laughter at our mediocre form. Soon, however, the eagles soared above observing our new-found paddling prowess that had been innate in us all along, only now it was released from its new-age societal chains. The eagles, in their elusive beauty shadowed us in their superiority, and rightly so, as we are in debt to their river’s beauty.
We found, after flowing through the veins of the north woods, that the wilderness can’t be tamed, just as the river can’t be conquered. Rather, the river allowed us to pass, sparing us from its grip at the end, only to allow the paddlers to return home at another time once again, finding their strength, themselves, and their grin.