Friday, December 30, 2011

The Coming of the New Year

As I come to the cusp of another year, I can't help think about a few things that have hit close to home. And surprisingly, it's not about paddling. Maybe because it's at the age I am now, or maybe it's something I now pay attention to, but I specifically noticed two things that seem to run contrary to each other. Lot of my friends, colleagues and even family are now having children. It's a pleasure to see these children that are vibrant and full of life. But on the flip side, people I know are not only ageing, (of course), but most poignantly, getting sick, with some succumbing to their illness. I was especially reminded of this when I visited my father's grave site this year and realized how close we are in age. It's 'life' at its finest some would say, whether evolutionary, or for others, the creator's master plan. Whether each action is to balance the other (and help us cope), maybe, but it's still a hard swallow at times. Despite it all, this is life as we all know it.

Reflection: Looking back at the previous year

New Year's is a happy time and I don't want to rain on anyone's parade with sombre thoughts. It's just that I wish for all my friends, family and readers all the best in health and spirit. Because it is only with health we can paddle, and of course when we get to paddle, happiness soon follows. And yes, I'm being facetious, as there are many other things that can bring about happiness, but as I suspect most of my readers are paddlers, I think you know exactly where I am coming from!

Projection: Looking ahead at the new year

Happy New Year's Everyone!
 Wishing you all health and happiness in 2012!
See you on the water!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Paddling On Christmas Day?

Stark, still, and serene in Algonquin at the end of November. 
Captivating for sure, but not the kind of scenery to
get you into that festive mood.

As I drove to work this morning, I couldn't help myself from thinking about another canoe trip. Here I was in the middle of December, with no trace of snow anywhere and my car displaying 4C outside. Last week one day, we even hit a high of 14C! This is December, isn't it? I even did an oil change on my car this past weekend, something I've never done at this time of year. The forecast for the rest of the week shows highs above zero with no sign of any snow. It looks like it's definitely not going to be a white Christmas this year. 

Oh yeah, Christmas is coming too. Maybe it's the lack of snow, or the fact that I have so many other things on my mind. In any case, I can't say I'm in the Christmas mood,...yet. Sure, the Christmas tunes are playing and the Christmas decorations are out, but I feel like being somewhere else. Like lost somewhere deep in the wilderness, paddling along shore with big fat snowflakes falling all around me. Yeah, now that sounds about right. Even on my last trip at the end of November, I was hoping to take a canoe-Christmas themed picture to share on the blog. Of course I needed some of that white stuff to provide the proper backdrop, but no luck there as well. If it was a tad bit colder, I would have gotten my wish, but since it decided to stay just one degree above zero, I ended the trip soaking wet instead - sigh.

Even the removal of my roof  racks is a glum occasion. It's about coming
to facts that canoeing is finished for the season.
Photo: Lisa Riverin-Thomas

I've never been a big fan of Christmas, at least in the commercialization of it. The mad rush of shoppers, crowds, trying to find parking, and searching for gifts as elusive as spotting a Canadian lynx. Why we subject ourselves to all this madness, I will never know. We say its all about giving, but sometime I'm more inclined to think its all about getting. In this day and age, most of us have what we truly need - a roof over our heads, food at the table, a job and family/friends. What more could anyone want? Sometimes I think we lose sight of the most important things we should be thankful for at this time of year. If there should be any giving at Christmas, in my opinion, it should be to those that don't have these basic things, which including myself, quite often take for granted.

Despite my little rant, Christmas is still a great time of year. It often brings out the best in people, their generosity and kindness. What I do love most about Christmas is families spending time together. As much as we think everyone does a lot of this throughout the year, I'm pretty certain not enough time is actually spent doing this. We all have 365 days in a year to do all kinds of things for ourselves, but how many of those days do we all make a concerted effort to be together. Christmas is one of those times, and that part alone is worth waiting another 364 days for. The long term forecast shows Christmas day to have above zero temperatures and most likely no snow. I know I would rather be out paddling somewhere, but it's Christmas, and time to be well spent with family. I'm sure I can forget thinking about paddling for one day!

I was grateful to have witnessed and captured this scene on a trip a few
years ago. However, this is how I would imagine what
 paddling on Christmas day should be like!

 Wishing you all, paddlers or not, the happiest of holidays!
Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Event - Part 5

Anita's reaction after realizing she just committed the
rest of her life to me. (And the problem is?!)

There are moments when we are awed, captivated and even find ourselves breathless by the scenery before us. It often illicit deep profound thoughts. Well, when Anita and I were sitting there atop Ontario with the splendor of the endless scenery before us, I began asking those atypical questions. About her dreams and wishes, what she wanted in life, and ultimately about happiness. Prepping Anita to finally pose the question, my mouth suddenly parched, my heartbeat doubled, and my hand inside my pocket that held the wooden ring started to sweat. I'm sure my vision went fuzzy and my blood pressure dropped  precipitously low, so before I fainted and totally ruin the moment, I quickly asked if she would make me the happiness person in the world -as I slid the wooden ring on her finger. 

From that point on, I had no recollection of the following minute(s). Every blood vessel in my body had probably constricted so much, the lack of oxygen to my head must have halted my ability to record the proceeding events - quite frankly being one of the most important times in my life. I seriously had no clue if she even said yes! When I finally started to come back from 'outer space', I heard Anita go on about being shocked and surprised I proposed so soon. I surmised she might have said yes, but in all honesty, I had no clue! No word of a lie, I actually asked her afterwards if she actually said yes. Understandably, both surprised and perplexed by my question, she adamantly and reassuringly acknowledged she did - phew! Talk about being a space cadet!

So here it is, the wooden engagement ring. Made of cedar
from the shores of Scarecrow Lk and carved
with a Leatherman!

Relieved by both the affirmative answer and the weight that was now lifted off my shoulder, I was finally able to relax and join in on the conversation. Anita remarked that she was amazed and impressed that I was able to carve a ring that coincidentally also fit! (Yes, I was beaming!) Although, I did tell her luck played a big part in it. I then promised her a more substantial engagement ring with an actual stone after the trip, but for now, she would have to accept this symbolic one. Comically, this response gave me another neat idea, as I offered to find a 'stone' to affix to the wooden ring. This would then complete the look of a typical engagement ring - a la Au Naturel style! As we were sitting atop a mound of quartzite, I quickly searched around and found a few that seemed to work. With her approval of the final stone, we created an even more symbolic ring - one that was also from the very place we got engaged!

The wooden ring with the very impressive 
'2 carat quartzite' - lol

We were both on a 'high', (Excuse the puns!), on the highest point of land, and which certainly was the highlight of the day for both of us. We were giddy, ecstatic and overwhelmed by the moment. It's one of those few times in life when you feel the emotions warm and extend to the furthest reaches of your body. All you want to do is just take it all in, and never forget it. As much as we would have loved to stay there and let time stand still, I eventually had to break the reverie. It was getting late and we still had to cover some distance that day. (A rest day was originally scheduled for this day, but was lost due to unexpectedly being wind bound on Smoothwater Lake.) We took one last look around, embraced, then turned to leave that unique location, which incidentally became even more special to us.

The highest point in Ontario now has more
significance to the both of us!

The rest of the trip didn't pan out exactly as planned. We ran into more of the same problems we had at the beginning of the trip - go figure. Low water (more like no water) on the Lady Evelyn river meant we couldn't make it to Florence Lake. Then ironically, we ended up back at Smoothwater Lake where we dealt with wind again. We even decided to finish the trip a day early as we ran out of options. Despite all this, I was completely thankful that I was able to accomplish what I had set out to do. Call it good timing, luck, or divine intervention, whatever it was, I was grateful for the perfect conditions that allowed me to affirm one of the biggest changes to my life. There is now a new passion in my life besides paddling - Anita. Life as I've known it won't ever be the same.

Its a life changing decision, but one I
happily look forward to.

Canoes were originally made with two people in mind. I am just thrilled, that someone has now permanently taken that other seat. Looking forward to a life full of paddling adventures with Anita!


Postscript: So the big question, why the pause? There actually was a valid reason for it. In Anita's defense, the proposal not only caught her off guard, (Which is how it's supposed to happen, right?) but at the same time, she thought the wooden ring was a joke. A few weeks prior, Anita's mom unexpectedly spoke to both of us about rings and marriage. When Anita and I talked about that discussion later on, she sarcastically asked for a ring. I jokingly pulled off a key ring and slipped it on her finger, stating that was all she would get. That incident was obviously still fresh in her mind when the actual moment came, and guess what? She didn't initially reply because she honestly thought it was another joke! Talk about back-firing! In any case, as you know from my state of disconnect, I didn't even hear it, let alone was cognizant of anything she said afterwards - but at least I now know why. I guess in the end, the joke was really on me! (shaking my head)