Adventures in Kayaking
This past weekend, while in Washington, D.C. for the National Writing Project Spring Meeting, I learned the NWP works with the National Park Service to get more people into the parks and writing about it. How cool is that??
I love the outdoors and the National Park Service, so I've been thinking about this new bit of information a lot this week. How fun would it be to visit and write about parks with a group of people who love to do the same? And then I remembered... I've done that before.
Way back when I first participated in the Georgia Southern Writing Project Invitational Summer Institute in 2010, I wrote a little piece about kayaking. I read it there and then more or less forgot about it. Until today...
Enjoy, friends! And, if you've got park stories to share, I'd love to hear/read them. :)
Kayaking the Coast
Sitting on a warm riverbank in Orono, Maine, one hand behind me in the grass, I catch sight of something small and red floating towards me from under the bridge. As the breeze tosses hair into my face, the little bit of red turns to a slash of crimson with a spot of reflective yellow on top. In another moment, I see the yellow spot has sprouted a head and two smoothly working arms. Mesmerized by the steady rhythm, I watch as the kayaker propels herself skillfully through the gently encouraging river stream. When she gets close enough to see me, I shoot my eyes back into my book so as not to be caught watching.
Reluctantly returning my attention to my required reading, I tell myself that I won’t always be the bookish one stuck on the bank. One day I’ll be that person on the water.
Athletic, smooth, and clearly together.
A guttural “Hghh!” shoots out of my mouth as my arms are pulled the wrong way behind me, my wet hands struggling to grip the paddle attempting to yank me backwards. As I awkwardly pull the paddle back over my head and return to an upright position, I can hear my friends’ laughter bouncing off the flooded cypress trees and coming back for me.
It’s not the first time this has happened today and I can guarantee it won’t be the last either. So instead of getting aggravated or worse… trying to defend myself... I laugh right along with them.
“What’s going on back there?!” Blair shouts from the kayak she shares with her husband.
“Oh nothing,” my fellow paddler is quick to respond.
For a second, I think she’s covering for me… Then I learn that’s not quite it. “Amanda just clothes-lined herself again!” she manages before losing her breath to laughter.
“Dammit, Alicia, you’re supposed to be on my side!” I yell back, fully embracing my role as comic relief on this trip. “And Blair,” I continue, on a roll, “the second your paddle touches the water, I’ll be happy to take your sass!”
Alicia howls and Chappy snorts his agreement as he hunches over, nearly loosing his paddle to the murky water.
Sitting bolt upright, Blair spins around in her seat to face us, looking truly regal perched on the front of her floating chariot. Her brow furrowed over her Jackie-O style sunglasses, she shouts her defense: “Chappy would prefer that I not paddle!”
As Chappy wipes at the tears rolling down his face, he chokes out a “she’s right” before giving in to another fit of laughter. Blair leans back triumphantly in her seat with a forceful “Thank you, baby. See, Aman-DUH?!”
My own laughter makes breathing difficult, so though I attempt something more eloquent, what I hear is “hnnngf…”
That noise, though, is like the period on our hysterical sentence.
We are tired. We are silly. And it’s only going to get worse if we don’t take a break to compose ourselves. After a few minutes of laughing until our stomachs hurt, stopping, thinking we have it under control only to start all over again, we decide enough is enough and leave the nearly impassable cypress forest for clear water.
Making our swerving way back to the loading point, I take inventory of my situation. Swampy sludge gurgles up through air holes in our kayak, and my feet are covered in the stuff. What the boat leaves in the water, I manage to dig up with my paddle, so for the last few hours, I’ve been bathing in the green and black goop. My arms are tired from the effort of dodging those damn trees and my hair is standing straight up thanks to a special South Georgia mixture of sweat and algae. And later, when I do finally take off this life jacket, I’ll have tan lines that suggest I sunbathe in a sweater vest. In short, I look good.
But, you know, I’m only half kidding about that.
Sure, my yellow vested, smooth as silk, Maine counterpart may have presented well as Ms. Solo-Kayaker-in-Charge, but that never has been and never will be me. You can put me in a life jacket and sit me down in a boat, but I’ll still be the girl who makes goofy faces in the background of tourists’ pictures and who believes that there is never a time too serious for the right joke.
So… athletic? I don’t think so.
Smooth? Probably don’t deserve that one either.
But reducing four grown adults to tear-producing fits of laughter as I thunk the front of my shared kayak into yet another cypress tree? That’s about as together as I’d ever want to be.
Amanda J. Hedrick
Story collector, recipe enthusiast, educator, striving for a constant input and output of all things art and learning.