Finding the Line

I have been kayaking for three summers now, mostly on the Little Kennisis River that runs past our back door into Halls Lake. But it wasn't until this summer that I finally discovered - with the guidance of my housemate Joan - how to paddle easily back against the considerable current of a very high water release from the dam at the old log shute.

A few weeks ago, we woke up one Sunday morning to find the river empty. This had never happened before, and it was quite a shock. Later we heard that the dam had been illegally tampered with the night before, deliberately closed off altogether, and not by the MNR or the Trent Waterway personnel. Why this might have been so, beyond keeping lake levels higher, we couldn't imagine. So we were silenced by the sight of an empty river at our back door, and being opportunists, we took three hours to clear away the sticks and other debris we could usually never reach. Still, our first thought was for the fish and other wildlife that must have been affected that day. So we were thankful that - twenty-four hours later - the water was fully released, more than we'd ever seen it before. The current was very swift in its flowing.

Here's where kayaking comes in. Going downriver in that current was simply a matter of steering. It was a great ride and a quick one, but paddling back against it was something I'd never tried before. Following Joan, I heard again and again "find the line, find the line," meaning the finest diagonal direction across that rushing current. "Ferrying" is the correct term, I believe. After initial fumbling and over-exerting, I was astounded by how easy it was to paddle back, once I'd found the line.

The sensation of "finding the line" stayed with me for days. I found the phrase repeating itself inside, and taking on other applications. When I'm facing an overwhelmingly crowded day, for example, how do I find the inner line of slow, steady progress through all that must be done? When I'm facing disagreement and conflict, where is the line that holds me present without losing myself to a useless and destructive anger? And when I have to do something I'd rather not do but that needs doing, how do I find the line inside that allows me to do it? I couldn't help but remember that after learning the proper paddle move, it became easier, and perhaps the same could happen here.

The word "inside" is the key. "Finding the line" inside me, and remembering that it was a diagonal, not a straight line, seems important. Could a diagonal line allow me to flow with whatever happens, just as a straight lines weds me to one way?

The poet David Whyte talks about "finding the one line already written inside you." That's the shimmering line of power and peace that allows us to face any current at all.

Try this:  Choose a busy day when you feel a bit frenzied. Stop and go inside. Picture a thin line of white light and ride it like a kayak through your day