Life Arts

The Song My Paddle Sings

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 2 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

View Ratings | Rate It

Become a Fan
  (38 fans)
- Advertisement -

“Be strong, O paddle! Be brave canoe!

--E. Pauline Johnson

Minnesota Morning

It is not easy to paddle your own canoe.

Shoulders and biceps burn and breath comes harder and faster than one would like when the wind forces an unexpected and unwanted change in course. The core body is challenged and strained, and broken ligaments from the car crash bulge over the base of the skull. Sometimes it hurts.

The soft dawns of Minnesota summer mornings are enough, though, to encourage one to pull on the tattered sweatshirt that belonged to the now-grown daughter and explore the perimeter of the ancient trout lake. There are tasks to be accomplished on the lake. There are observations to be made and meditations to consider.

- Advertisement -

Has the loon hatched her twin eggs? Is the great blue heron fishing on the east bank? What about the mallards in the cattails? Will the hundred year old snapping turtle devour the ducklings again this year? The pull is seductive. Seeing is believing.

I made a terrible mistake today. I wanted to move faster across the glassy surface of my blue-green lake. Impatient, I grabbed a kayak paddle, thinking that its feathered blades would be quick fix and make my morning journey more efficient. I knew immediately that the fancy aluminum shaft felt strange. It was smooth and enticing and seemed to promise that we would work well together on the journey of discovery. Its lightness and flexibility was a comfort to hands that tire more easily now. But part of me missed the roughness of the wooden canoe paddle, worn smooth by many hands on countless summer mornings. Varnish worn away and gray wood exposed, my canoe paddle and I were always a good team on our morning meditations.

The lure of comfort won out on this June morning. I grabbed the shiny new kayak paddle with its two blades and literally sailed across the surface. My canoe and I flew past the loon and she did not have time to look up and greet us with her soft tremolo. Her mate was missing and I noted this fact and worried. I never saw the ducklings and the great blue was startled at our stealthy approach and flew away—his angry cry hanging in the morning air—for the efficient dual blades were as silent as the clouds that drifted across the sky above us. Something was wrong, but too enticed by the clouds drifting by and the struggles with painful memories, I capitulated and gave myself completely to the ease and promise of the dual blades, and gripped the aluminum gently as my arms moved—left, right, left, right, left.

A breeze rippled the surface and suddenly we were trapped on the east bank, near the boat landing where the wind is always tricky. My canoe became a seventeen foot horizontal sail, but no techniques of tacking with the errant breeze could stop us from spinning lazily—going nowhere. This would never happen with my paddle. My paddle and I existed alone with only one blade, but we were efficient and our course was always true.

The only option was to use the shiny aluminum with its dual blades and bank the canoe, give up, and pole along the shore, pushing through the broken trees and reeds.

I dug in with arms made strong by the weathered paddle and realized something I had missed all along. My old paddle was tucked in the bottom of the canoe, towards the bow, but within easy reach under the thwart. The grip felt good and we got to work. It was hard work in the stiff breeze, but we were on course once again. My canoe paddle and I had only two options—pushing and pulling, pushing and pulling—but I was padding my own canoe and I had found my compass once again.

With a heart beating hard and in ancient rhythm as eddies swirled around the wooden blade, I heard something remarkable. I heard my paddle sing. My core body tightened and helped strong arms stay vertical as we moved, alone and true.

Now, I hear clearly the song my paddle sings.

“And up on the hills against the sky

A fir tree rocking its lullaby

Next Page  1  |  2

Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota, New Orleans and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill (more...)

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon

Go To Commenting

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; , Add Tags
- Advertisement -

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Dian Fossey and the Gorilla Killings

Should the World Boycott the Beijing Olympics? The Horrific Story of the Falun Gong

Haiti Watch: Disease Threatens Infants and No Plans to Stop It

"Sticks in Vaginas:" This Is What a Massacre Looks Like

Fox-Owned National Geographic Uses Gorillas as Cover for Exploitation of Congo

Baghdad on the Bayou Redux: Tab Benoit Interview


The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
6 people are discussing this page, with 8 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)
Georgianne, the scope of your writing and passion ... by Jan Baumgartner on Thursday, Jun 12, 2008 at 11:52:01 AM
Just paddling my own canoe...... by Georgianne Nienaber on Thursday, Jun 12, 2008 at 11:53:58 AM
Listen to this woman. She is telling a great truth... by martinweiss on Thursday, Jun 12, 2008 at 12:42:17 PM
P.S. Don't go on national holidays when the wa... by martinweiss on Thursday, Jun 12, 2008 at 12:52:22 PM
motorless flowage in northern Minnesota. I've ... by Jim Freeman on Thursday, Jun 12, 2008 at 4:42:25 PM
Yes, and  there are many quiet lakes up here ... by Georgianne Nienaber on Thursday, Jun 12, 2008 at 8:39:52 PM
but did you catch any trout?... by Mr M on Thursday, Jun 12, 2008 at 6:32:05 PM
Thanks for taking us on the ride!I can almost... by Kathlyn Stone on Friday, Jun 13, 2008 at 11:44:37 AM