With lungs demanding attention and upside down in my kayak I set-up for the third time. I sweep my paddle from bow to stern trying to execute a hip-snap and recovery scull to bring myself upright. For the third time I fail and with a slightly ferrous taste in my mouth I pop the sprayskirt and shoot to the surface. He’s disappointed again. To the amusement of the Canadian RVers on shore he has been trying for the better part of an hour to teach me this skill. The last few days he has insisted that he can teach anyone a bombproof roll. We have been on the road in Baja Mexico nearly 30 days. Hopscotching along the west side of the Sea of Cortez taking turns: One kayaking/camping solo, the other driving his beater van to a rendezvous point, then either switching or traveling together for a time. I can’t get enough of star-filled, light-free night skies, deep silences, fantasy colored seas and bone warming sunshine. The locals are welcoming and helpful and I do not want this trip to end.
I left Anchorage about nine months earlier having sold my home and most of my belongings. Heading out in my station wagon dressed in a mountain bike, ocean kayak, rocket box of camping gear and two 5-gallon gasoline containers, I roamed the West inversely to the path of earlier years. Meandering south on the slowest most deserted roads available. Stopping to pedal, paddle or roam about on a whim. No cell phone, no GPS, no two-legged or four-legged companion. Occasionally meeting up with family or friends, I preferred traveling solo–finding negotiating even the smallest details of travel with a companion exhausting. Nevertheless, I was excited by the email inviting me to join my Alaskan acquaintance on a jaunt to Mexico. It was intriguing to consider how a journey with this quirky long-time bachelor might play out. His frugality and environmental savvy were notorious having used a paper plate for 10 consecutive days on one kayak club outing. I knew my traveling budget was safe in his hands. We fell into a surprisingly compatible rhythm. He: A widely traveled, deep thinker. Me: Less traveled with a puppy-like, in-the-moment enthusiasm. There were no expectations between us and with just a general itinerary, daily decisions flowed easily. Returning to our starting point in San Diego, we spent a few days sight-seeing then went our separate ways, only exchanging a few emails and phone calls over the years before losing contact as we each cared for elderly/ill family. In this time of technology and absolutely everything online I could likely find him or about him, but, I prefer to let this singular trip with an uncommon man stand as it is in my memory.
During the years since that trip I paddled as many puddles of water as I could throughout Arizona and California. Living in ever smaller spaces and one year after finagling my 17 foot kayak through a window and around a corner in order to store it inside my tiny apartment, I realized that my preferred style of living would always result in a small footprint. Needing to be stationary for a time to care for an aging parent, I decided to let the kayak go not realizing at the time part of my “adventurer” identity and the extreme peace I find on any body of water, however small, would go with it. Downsizing by both choice and necessity I fell into a thought pattern of scarcity and lack that became demoralizing and self-limiting. I needed to live more mindfully. I needed to make more deliberate decisions. Decisions that protected and enhanced my hard-won small reserve of resources while evolving an outlook of abundance, vitality and wonder.
Reclaiming a vital element of joy, I purchased a small kayak. The Advanced Element Lagoon 1 met many criteria: Small footprint for both storage and price, unique design and portable by bike and trailer. Some would say that it is inelegant and I must admit that ocean padding purists would chaff at its limitations.
I sometimes refer to this little boat lovingly as a “glorified inner tube”. It’s waddle-like gait comes with a gift though–forcing a meditative attention to each paddle stroke–improving my technique. It has provided a sturdy platform in a variety of paddling situations. And while not suitable for touring or long open water passages, it is ideal for my life long love of nature watching and newly emerging interest in birding and photography. Still, I admit to lusting after other boats–Oru–I am looking at you!
I still can’t do that roll practiced so many years ago (impossible in this boat anyway), but, my confidence, resilience and persistence in living a kind, meaningful and vital life with an expansiveness of spirit is…BOMBPROOF!
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Watch for my next post: A Path…