“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” -Andre Gide
Last week was pretty monumental for me. I learned something new about myself…I love water. No, I mean I LOVE water! I’ve always known I had an appreciation for it, but I thought it stopped at wanting to own a waterfront property so I could enjoy the view. Until last week, I had no idea that our love affair included more than my desire to enjoy its rhythmic movement by the shore.
So what changed?
Well, I spent a week at New River Retreats in a beautiful cottage by the waterfront in Dublin VA. (Am I the only one who thought it was strange that there’s a Dublin in Virginia?). To be honest, I was filled with excitement, anticipation and a teeny tiny bit of anxiety about the trip. For one, I was going to be spending a week with a set of friends we barely knew, their parents and another couple that we never met at all. And secondly, the week promised a barage of outdoor activities, mostly including water sports AND I am not a strong swimmer. I’m not even a good floater. Little did I know, water is one place being skinny doesn’t have benefits – ever since I’ve been a child, I’ve struggled to float – I can even sink in salt water LOL.
Knowing that I’ve always struggled with water, I never really bothered to explore it much. I used to dream of days, I’d be able to snorkel or dive, but everytime anyone had ever tried to teach me to swim, their attempts failed because I could never get myself to float. And knowing this made me tense which made it worse because I could never relax. And you can’t float without letting go and relaxing. So eventually I guess I just told myself I didn’t need to swim, so I didn’t.
Last year, that started to change. We planned a week of vacationing in Jamaica and I got to thinking that it sure would be nice if I could swim. So I started to take a couple free lessons at the Y and quickly realized that sometimes, it’s not that we can’t do something, we just never had the right teacher.
Brian was amazing! He explained to me how floating works and the science behind what the body was doing when we swim. He empathized with my challenges and explained that I wasn’t weak, it was simply because I had little fat and that even many muscular people struggle with the same thing because their muscles make them less buoyant. Really?! And then he looked me in the eye and said, “It’s still possible, you just have to understand how your body works and you can do it.”
And for the first time, after 37 years, I floated. Not very long mind you, but it was just enough that I managed to get myself moving a bit and awkwardly complete a half lap. And I went back a couple times and managed to manouver a bit more, but that’s where it stopped. After our Jamaica trip, I never bothered to go back.
Which brings me to Virginia. I had planned to try to go back for more lessons, but it never happened so I can’t say I was extremely thrilled at the prospect of dealing with a kayak. I like boats, but I prefer bigger ones, you know the kind where there’s a safe distance between you and the water. The ones that are impossible to tip. Canoes and kayaks don’t fit that criteria, but nevertheless I got in. The Canoe was first, it was a two person one, so it put my mind at ease to know Nathan would be there in the boat with me.
When I got in and we drifted out, it was beautiful! So calming, so peaceful, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else and for that moment, I felt lost in time. I couldn’t believe that for decades I spent my life relegated to the shore and was missing all this.
Next up was the kayak – I never really planned to do it because it was a single person boat. So if I flipped, I would be on my own in water that averages between 700 and 1300 feet deep (a tiny fact, I’m glad I didn’t know until after the trip). When I got in and floated out in the middle of the river surrounded by nothing but an expanse of water nestled amidst sloping scapes of Appalachian mountains, I felt…safe. Strangely, I felt safer there than I did looking at it all from the shore. It was jarring and a bit mind blowing to think that something so potentially scary, especially for a non-swimmer like me could feel so freakin’ good! I didn’t want to leave…EVER! So we stretched out and laid back on our kayaks, holding hands, staring at the sun and letting the current float us back to shore. And as I looked up at the sky, I wondered, what other things did I love and love intensely, but had never known because I didn’t have the courage to leave the shore.