"Row, row, row your boat." Paddling down a river is like traveling through life, and this song has always resonated with me in that sense. But, "gently down the stream" is just what the song says - a dream. Paddling down the river of life is not always gentle, but that's what helps us hone our skills with the water.
Life will definitely throw rough patches at us. The waters get choppy, the current quickens, and there might be some downed trees with branches throwing the water into a different direction. Sometimes the corners are sharp - you can see it coming, but you're not fully sure of how quick it'll toss you around that corner until you get to it. There have been quite a few times that I've been pleasantly surprised by those sharp corners, though. I'd approach the turn, see the quick current, the white peaks of water, and brace myself to lean into the turn, paddle on the correct side, prepare to right the boat if it tips, only to find out the current carries me swiftly but steadily around the corner, and I didn't even have to paddle at all. I worried for no reason!
Other times, I'll approach a turn that is harder than I expect, with a quicker current that isn't about to help me around it. It can be scary, but in the moment I keep my eyes focused, my balance in check, and I do what I can to stay upright, knowing that if I tip, I'll address the situation in the moment. And I do. Usually I make it around, but other times I've flipped the kayak, just like life sometimes flips us on our heads. But we fix it. Sometimes we have to gather up our belongings before they float down river. Sometimes we have to do a little swimming. Sometimes we have to drag everything to the bank to regroup, dry off, and catch our breath. But we get back on the river and keep going.
The current can be slow at times. I enjoy those moments, relaxing back not paddling at all, letting the river take me where it will. I get to breathe, take in the scenery, and just be. But life isn't supposed to be like that all the time - how do we learn lessons by doing nothing? After awhile of just floating on slow current, I decide to make things move on my own, and I grab my paddle, and push forward.
Picking up speed can be fun. Feeling in control is even more fun. I'm one with the river, one with the current. The water and I are partners, playing together, enjoying each other's company as we move along!
I come to forks in the river at times, where I have to decide which route is the better one to take. I've chosen the path that ends up with a dead-end when I thought for sure it would take me through. Those times I have to turn around, paddle against the current, upstream to where I left off, and get back on track. Just like life. It's okay to make wrong turns sometimes, so long as we're aware, and willing to turn around and do a little work to get back on track. We can always get back on track.
Occasionally the river will surprise me, and I'll come up on a hidden tree under the water that snags my boat, and hangs me up. I get around it.
Other times I'll see shallow water ahead, and my boat drags bottom. I have to get out and push, or even carry it. We have to handle our situations and ourselves differently in different circumstances, but if we're willing, we always get through.
I like to enjoy the peace of the water alone, but paddling with others is always a learning experience. It can be enjoyable, or it can be frustrating. Especially when you share a boat and paddle together! Teamwork and humility are important. I've found that strapping our canoes to other canoes side-by-side creates more stability. We get around corners with ease that would have otherwise potentially flipped us. Having each other's backs makes life easier to navigate! But at times there's too many, and we have to separate so we don't get stuck. And other times, we just want to go back to doing the paddling on our own.
I remember a story of a woman going on a float trip. She boarded the bus, which drove her nine miles up river. "I'll meet you at the destination," the bus driver said as they arrived at the beginning of the float.
"But the destination is nine miles from here," the woman said. "You have a bus, why not just drive me to the destination?"
Sounds silly, doesn't it? The whole point was for her to go on a float trip. It's not about the destination - it's about the journey and the experience.
Just like life.