Getting stoked about “the neutral position”.

The Surphonics

Image result for kalavida surf shop

Prior to ending up at Kalavida Surf Shop , my Jedi mentor and I had been dodging a thunderstorm for the better part of the morning. In fact, a horn was actually heard by some other foursomes on the golf course we were playing on. Oddly enough, our group and the foursome behind us, which included the club pro, seemed to have been deaf to that urgent sound. So instead of worrying about my ancient lightening rod clubs, I started to breath in and out and found a comfortable place on the course. My mentor, whose nickname is “Mad Dog”, kept reminding me about this notion he called “the neutral position”. When I was younger, I did have to discover neutral position while clinging onto the hillsides of San Francisco. My step Dad, who had a knack for automobiles, had managed to squeeze a Fiat Spyder engine into our little FIAT station wagon. The neutral position was an elusive sweat spot found in a four-speed gearbox which had not come along with the engine. So my original quest to find “neutral” was achieved when my father grinned at me as I wiped my sweaty hands on my Levis. I discovered that no matter how short the moment, the actual action of finding and than going through neutral was a path that provided both calm and satisfaction. It was both peaceful and transient. So while the electrons danced a merry rumba in nimbus clouds about, I was about to discover that my own notion of “neutral” was mechanically related to both golf and paddle boarding. Yet what really put a tingle in my toes was that “the neutral position” serendipitously stokes a life journey of pursuing freedom and Flow.

As the story goes, in my life I have weathered a few storms, so having a few dark clouds on the horizon or above me does not faze me. In fact, the slight tingle in the back of my neck when I arched my metal clubs skyward was rather inspiring. Besides readopting a rather non-fatalistic perception of life, I was rediscovering what it was like to have balance in both legs with each successful swing. Now I must confess that I am not a golfer. I do explore the links from time to time if only for the social component. I enjoy the positive advice from my partners like “ah young jedi, take the wise path and avoid hitting the tree”. Yet as the clouds rumbled above, a continued affect of my last six-month metamorphosis was putting a grin upon my face. Even as I was told of “ball eating trees” and “railcars going to Vancouver”, I found a simple a smooth sense of flow beginning to evolve. As my mentor continued to grin and compliment my successful shots, my body continued to feel both the arc of my swing. I rejoiced at the thunderclaps from the clouds above. Throwing caution and my soaring wee white ball to the winds, the universe smiled back and gave me applause.

After the game and heading towards Kalamanka Lake, “Mad Dog” and I had an animated conversation about this whole notion of neutral. Look neutral up on Google and the first thing you discover is a discussion on path to ground and the possible electrocution that I avoided . Go down the rabbit hole and you will find no end of references to the definition of neutral. It can be an emotional impasse or a country avoiding to get embroiled in an activity that may involve weapons. Put it to use on the water and the term can be used to refer to positive and negative buoyancy. Even in chemistry, when the Hydrogen is in equal concentration with hydroxides, there is a neutral point. Finally, where would any biologist be without discussing the homeostatic properties of water and the amazing ways that life maintains a natural and neutral balance of water and electrolytes!

Prior to our game of golf, my Jedi warrior friend and I had already paddled the night before. I was getting ready for my pumping Clarity warm up went a blond surferesque kid came with a pump. “Dude, the owner said you might need this”. It was this simple act of awareness that gained my alliance to the Kalavista Board shop. Not only did I want to thank the owner of the shop, I also wanted to explore a place that has been referred to as the first SUP board shop in BC. My mentor already knew about the owner and simply called him “Kevin”. It seems that Kevin Obrien of Kala is a bit of legend in the board community. As I was later told, if you want a guy who questions normal and has been used as an example of…not being normal, he is your guy.

Why-be-normal

Now I have always questioned “normal” and being another word that begins with “n”, I figured a visit could enhance my understanding of “neutral”. There, next to the railway tracks, I was suddenly reminded of another peaceful pit stop called Healdsburg in Sonoma Valley. As I turned to look at this surf shop, a few neurons went bing and yup..this place could easily fit in with its compatriots on North shore. The place was simple and yet unique. There was simple designed logo and a huge parking lot. We had just stepped into the shop when the clouds unloaded a much-needed load of rain. It was just like sneaking out of squalls on any tropical island. I was busy looking at stock, like bracelets made of parachute cord, when the store became a safe haven and a story room for Kevin to show me his video of river paddling in the interior. As he said, “we wanted to do something before standup paddling became popular and trendy”. So as the surf music blasted, the showers dampened the parking lot and Kevin grinned, I watch a crew of what could easily be Ken Kesey’s merry pranksters, set off to paddle in tutus  and Viking horns. Yes, there were rocks and a distinct lack of concern for them. Yet if you refocused your perceptions, one could easily see a sense of merriment that you only get when you sneak through neutral and kick it into a new gear.

I was lucky enough to grab Kevin’s attention for a few more minutes, like me, he is easily distracted. We talked about gear as he pulled out an amazing fin from a secret spot just above the cash register. Having been referred to as “young Jedi” all through the morning, I held the fin in my hands and felt the force. Did it actually glow in my hands? Could this be the magic fin that would keep both me and Clarity on course? Yet I knew Kevin was inspiring a more subtle direction. The rain soon stopped, the crowd in the store increased and Kevin was now busy finding a new soundtrack to play and talking about the merits of a powerful pump. Yes, I almost thought of buying one! Yet as quickly as the weather changed, the topic of our conversation diverged into talking about surf paddling and boards I should consider. I was grinning ear to ear and simply rocking from foot to foot, feeling this new thing called “neutral”. As the rain began to lighten up, an ecstatic young woman purchased her first board. Like her, I could relate to her massive smile.  I had the same goof ball look when I bought Clarity only a few months ago. True to his own sense of fun and tradition, Kevin told her to grab a free t-shirt. I smiled and soaked in the moment; this was truly a place where SUP Boarding was more than a trend, it was a distinct culture.

Spending time on a paddle board at Kalavida

Kalavida goes for a river trip

After another day of practice, in which I learned to actually effectively chip and pitch, my mentor rewarded me by taking on a social river tubing trip took me down a lovely patch of water some where near Lumbly . All the while, I was feeling my left side of my body awaken from more ten years of pain and imbalance. I enjoyed the happy banter of the company on this slow and mindful float down the river. While my mentor did the wise wizard or lazy lizard thing, apparently snoozing in his chair, he later reminded me that I did not need to be a continual goof. He stoically reminded me that though I was blessed with a good sense of humour, I did not need to use it continually as a defense mechanism. While “Mad Dog” artfully avoided margarita jug pours, he watched me as a mindful Jedi. I was lucky, truly lucky, to be feeling this much alive on such a sun filled day. I wondered if Jedi’s took time off to find neutral. Was there a place where a Jedi could chill besides a noisy extraterrestrial  bar?

For me, what the neutral position has now become is a possible replacement for the notion of balance. Perhaps neutral is that position where the working mind operates with out the  thinking mind taking part. For example, yesterday I was back on Clarity after a five-hour drive when I noticed a positively buoyant paddler from Brazil, wobbling her board from side to side by swaying her hips. I followed suit and in a quirkish solca action, both feet happily let my board arc from side to side. I was stable if only because I was not thinking about being unstable, What was odd was that this motion was just like doing a golf swing! My body, now fit, was starting to recall body memory and the joy of having the sense to go in and out of balance! I raised a heel and then a toe, pushed downward and just as I felt the board lean to the other side, that faithful clutch foot came into gear. I was discovering neutral all over again! So today, I found a hidden trail along False Creek and hide from the sun. There was a happy hop in my footsteps as I remembered Kevin Obrien’s words of wisdom..”leave some room for spontaneity and magic and it will happen”. Perhaps “it” is just that smooth shifting of gears between an all too demanding thinking mind and a smooth flowing working mind. Along that path, you have to remind your self to go through neutral.

 

Good Guys Win

Image result for American Beauty logo grateful Dead

Good Guys Win

I am never sure about the detours in one’s life. We sometimes make decisions based upon criteria that can be as vague as a hunch or chemistry. Me, I am a biologist and the ways of quantum physics are for those more bolder than I. I guess every explorer has had their doubts as they began a journey. My explorer is currently in the shop getting a look over and I am preparing to spend  the next four weeks on a solo journey on wheels and on my paddle board “Clarity”. I am not sure why I have chosen this path to be a seeker. May be it began with worn book by Alan Watts and a post high school grad trip to Yosemite. Yup, Just me  with only a few tapes, a cooler and a hunch that a girl friend would meet up with me in Tahoe. Some times bad choices make great stories. Now, years later, Alan’s words still resonate an element of truth and I am still prone to wanderlust.

Prior to setting off to explore new waters, I decided to go for a Monday night paddle out of Deep Cove. I was feeling a bit of swagger. I was helping new paddlers and ..well feeling pretty full of my self. Yet I knew by the third wave that “Clarity” was up to her mischief. My head was full of dialogs. There, between the ears, was a continual chatter that, at one point in time, I actually requested a moment of silence. I am never too sure about the nature of things. I have even come to accept that perhaps spending an inordinate about of time pondering the how’s and why’s would be better spent humming a song and paddling Clarity. So as I  went airborne and flew over the next wave, my hand holding fast to my paddle, I knew gravity was going to test my swimming skills and there you have it, more evidence of the ripple affect. One small ripple grows into a larger one and soon there is that wave either of water or emotions that you have to navigate through. There is no promise that all is going to be a pleasant experience. However; it may be a snap to the senses that will make you question how you filter reality.

“What we have to discover is that there is no safety, that seeking is painful, and that when we imagine that we have found it, we don’t like it.”
Alan W. Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety

So I continued my paddle, against both wind and tide. My motivation shifted from being a pleasant paddle to getting into the moment and taking on a struggle. “Was I a good man?” was a question that I had been ruminating but there was no time for that, so I began looking for a song. Among the four tapes that I went onto the road with when I sought understanding in that post graduation journey, was a Grateful Dead tape “American Beauty”. The song “ripple” came to mind. Not the wine but that simple statement of “would you hear my voice come through the music”. Would my action provide me with the calm that I was seeking?

While the Bard had pondered life as a stage and we as just actors, I was not buying into that. Nope, I wanted to write my own script and yes..even decide where I wanted to let my words ring out. Again, there is that combination of both purpose and intent. The purpose of this blog and my journey is to provide a rationale for a life style. The intent, now that is deeper, much like the waters I have traversed. I do not know the true depth of one’s soul. I am under the impression that the notion of the soul has sent mind’s itching for definitions.

“The more we try to live in the world of words, the more we feel isolated and alone, the more all the joy and liveliness of things is exchanged for mere certainty and security. On the other hand, the more we are forced to admit that we actually live in the real world, the more we feel ignorant, uncertain, and insecure about everything.”
Alan W. Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety

So if my purpose and intents do match, then the songs and lack of fear of the unknown will create a gentle harmony to paddle along to. I will turn off the chatter between the ears and listen for clues on the passing wind.

“Where there is to be creative action, it is quite beside the point to discuss what we should or should not do in order to be right or good. A mind that is single and sincere is not interested in being good, in conducting relations with other people so as to live up to a rule. Nor, on the other hand, is it interested in being free, in acting perversely just to prove its independence. Its interest is not in itself, but in the people and problems of which it is aware; these are “itself.” It acts, not according to the rules, but according to the circumstances of the moment, and the “well” it wishes to others is not security but liberty.”
Alan W. Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety

So..dear readers..I have heard that the journey is defined not by the destination but by the process. I do intend to see as many dawns and sunsets as possible. I will watch each day after paddling a few strokes or humping it up a mountain. I will honour Alan’s perceptions and follow the cryptic quotes of “the Dude”. Be it gutter balls or strikes..I will navigate the instability through the waves and keep making these continual strokes either of the paddle or the key board. In the next four weeks, I will travel with a few more tapes though. While the destinations are several and they have change both in nature and intent, the underlying theme remains.

“There are, then, two ways of understanding an experience. The first is to compare it with the memories of other experiences, and so to name and define it. This is to interpret it in accordance with the dead and the past. The second is to be aware of it as it is, as when, in the intensity of joy, we forget past and future, let the present be all, and thus do not even stop to think, “I am happy.”
Alan W. Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity

Ripple

“Ripple”

If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung,
Would you hear my voice come through the music?
Would you hold it near as it were your own?It’s a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken,
Perhaps they’re better left unsung.
I don’t know, don’t really care
Let there be songs to fill the air.Ripple in still water,
When there is no pebble tossed,
Nor wind to blow.Reach out your hand if your cup be empty,
If your cup is full may it be again,
Let it be known there is a fountain,
That was not made by the hands of men.There is a road, no simple highway,
Between the dawn and the dark of night,
And if you go no one may follow,
That path is for your steps alone.Ripple in still water,
When there is no pebble tossed,
Nor wind to blow.You, who choose to lead, must follow
But if you fall you fall alone.
If you should stand then who’s to guide you?
If I knew the way I would take you home.

La dee da da da,
La da da da da,
Da da da, da da, da da da da da
La da da da,
La da da, da da,
La da da da,
La da, da da.

Things go better with Bob

Stand up paddle boarding water polo

wipe out

Tell him to be a fool every so often
and to have no shame over having been a fool
yet learning something out of every folly
hoping to repeat none of the cheap follies
thus arriving at intimate understanding
of a world numbering many fools.

Carl Sandburg

Having taken a few trips around the sun, you sometimes get to notice some patterns about life and people. For example, I have never had a bad time when I have been with some one named “Bob”. In fact, I can honestly say that I have been had the good fortune to have been mentored by two amazing men, Robert “Bob” Teideman of Newport antique twelve’s fame and the late   Dr. Robert “Bob” Schwartzand the racing yacht “Diane” crew. In fact it was just the other day that another partner in crime who to this day has the nickname “Doctor” due to his altruistic and heroic efforts, invited me for a retreat up the coast in Powell River. May be it is the buoyancy factor, you can count on a “Bob” to float your through the rough stuff. “Bobs” ride the waves and shuck and juke with the punches. So after spending three hours getting introduced to the game of stand up water polo, I wasn’t surprised to discover that there was a Bob behind this fantastic and lunatic event.

Now that I paddle every Monday at Deep Cove, I have come to realize how much is actually going on. Besides, the rental program of SUP’s and Kayak’s there is a flow of amazing athletes participating in other paddling events coming to the cove to share both their enthusiasm and wisdom. As I was leaving the Cove on Monday, one of the staff mentioned the Wednesday evening sup water polo. I had never heard of such a thing and I have only been on a board since April but I figured in a moment of both ignorance and confidence….”what the heck, what do I have to lose?”. So I arrived at the Cove early and noticed among the many floating things in the harbor thee was this this odd floating structure near to the shore. The bay was a hive of activity. There were kayakers, sailboards, two person paddle boards and I wondered if I was in the middle of a Doctor Suess poem..”there were paddlers with fins and paddlers with grins, there were even worldly wise four footed paddlers with wiskers on their chins”.

DCSuppolofar        DCSuppoloclose

Starboard Stand Up Water Polo

 

The original board and ball polo 1941!

As I sat upon a bench and proceeded to watch a pack of young pups proceeded to spin and shoot within the floating pontoons, I distinctly could not help but notice a high level of skill. It was like watching a pack of grommets play in the waves in Monterey. I began to seriously doubt my choice to play. The game itself involves two teams of three players standing upon larger more buoyant paddle boards. These board are coloured red or blue so that when you are in the water half drowning, you can identify which board is yours. The paddle is a combination of a spoon surface with an open hole. This means you can paddle hard and go no h and at the same time attempt to scoop a ball up into your stick without falling overboard. You are allowed to make stick to stick contact and ram inflatable rubber paddle board into the other team players boat causing a player to be out of the game in the water and hopefully not you. The game does involve a lot of falling into the water, swimming and climbing onto your board and standing up again. All this considered and with no experience I decided to my name on a list and was told that not a lot of folks were coming. So I relaxed, became a “free agent”, and patiently waited fully aware that I did have a good excuse. “How did you trip to go play polo go?”..”Oh I was a free agent and there were not enough players. I found an empty space on the seawall, smiled and felt reprieved. Oh well, I can just watch the kids, inflate Clarity and go of for a nice solo paddle. As the first game began, I was just part of the growing crowd watching first game in the middle of the bay.

Unlike the film clips on-line, there was a lot of speed and feisty play. There were no end of folks falling into the water and popping up onto their boards as if there were sharks in the water. This game was fast. I sipped a beverage and grinned and felt the quiet satisfaction of being just another on looker. That is when I heard my name being shouted. The first time I ignored it. From the shore, a young man was calling me out. Everyone was looking at each other. I actually thought of just ignoring his shouting when some one said..”we cannot find him”. I took in the scene wondering if my invisible powers would work. There was more head turning and a crew of fit folk patiently waited on a massive inflatable sup. Ignorance kicked in and I decided to get my wet suit vest and saddle up. I had made this mistake once before in a gymkanna where I nearly speared my horse racing around a pylon. Yup I decided to giddy up and joined my team “the free agents”.

As I wobbled and fell into the water prior to the first game, I noticed a familiar face staring back at me from the other team. It was my first instructor that took me out on my first ride on a soggy April day. There he was, big grin and massive thighs giving me a shacka salute. Yo bra and the game began. I remember being either airborne or in the water. There was a lot of cheering and laughter. Why I felt an odd sense of confidence I did not know but this was really fun. The game went on for eight to ten minutes. Neither I nor the many others had the time to even contemplate the time. It was like crash test dumbies all set loose to see who could stay afloat and move the ball. Two players on the other team were spinning their boards like they were bailing out of riding waves. I was learning to bend down more and attempting to move my feet. Having coached a few field sports, I looked for open space and attempted to pass the ball prior to falling overboard. I was on a learning curve with bald tires and a slippery soggy surface.

The free agents put up a great fight, we even the lead for some of our games and even attempted to give high fives without falling overboard. As the tide rose, a whole group of players and staff moved the pontoons closer to the shore so that more folks could watch. As the sun was sneaking it’s way to the horizon, I began to notice that many of the players were visiting paddlers and ex surfers. This would explain why and how they could jump in the air and spin to face the other direction. There were both guys and girls laughing it up with each capsize and goal. On the sideline we began to form a cheering section and did shark bit salutes as both young and more crafty older players went head to head. The boys started shouting out for Bob as I watched wiser wizard cherry picking close to the net. While brawn could get to the ball faster, the worldly-wise experience brain came up with neat tricks to score and sink other team players.

Being the last of the free agents to remain, I was pick up by one team and we managed, with the help of David’s crazy board and football skills to form a three-step ball movement to a young whippet who won the game. Then I got picked up by another team and as the video cameras rolled, I was now in the semi final game.

Here is was.. the Cinderella story, a misfit from Vancouver, now playing goal against the grommets who for the last I had admired that afternoon. Could it be a Disney film..the outlandish saves, the long distance shot, the roar of the crowd? Within the first opening five minutes and from behind me, a board made contact with mine as I saw the ball being relayed towards me. When I resurfaced from under the water, ball was in reach of their forward player who casually flipped the ball into the air and then netted the ball with his stick. I laughed, looked for my paddle board and beaked at the shooter…”really, you had to do that!”.  The grommets were out for blood and soon I was viewing the finals from the sidelines, I got to witness the grommets take on the paddling rock stars from South Africa and mighty Australian and “Bob”. This is the game the Grommets had been waiting for. “We want to play Bob”, they had been chanting from the sidelines. The afternoon practice was showing great skill for the pups but a cunning South African continued to show amazing goal keeping skills. Bob snuck in under the radar and cherry picked an equalizing goal. The grommets complained about score keeping as I raised my arms to show two peace signs but the afternoons practice paid off with a final score of 3-2.

Introduce a sport to a bunch of paddlers and a positive and enthusiastic community and you get that magical moment when everything falls into place including players into the water. For me, when words get replaced with sincere and positive actions then there is evidence of truth. What I appreciated the most was how my humble skill sets and lunges into the water were met with cheers! What I enjoy best about any sport is how many people can become part of one thing. There is a joy in being part of a positive and enthusiastic community. As I helped pull up anchors and piloted “the starcraft” multiuser paddle board, I noticed a couple and their hound taking in the fading sunset. With everyone pitching in, boards and pontoons were soon deflated and were being packed. It was during this time, that I met the wizard “Bob” who had been potting in goals in the final game. True to form, I must confess you cannot go wrong when you get involved in some fun with a guy named “Bob”

For more fact about Bob…and Deep Cove events please use the following links or go to my page “what is sup in Vancouver”. Now there is an “attaboy endeavours” facebook too! I am in training now and preparing for a rematch! It appears that Deep Cove Days may be the next set of games!

Promise to keep you posted

These are the simple things

supcbsilloette

Let the Big Dog Eat

Some times, you can tell what a kid is going to be like when they grow up just by a few simple actions. Take for example a four-year-old future big dog, who was just content to float his way through a lazy Sunday at the beach. I had been invited to go for a paddle down at Crescent Beach just near White Rock. Unlike my usual haunts, there was a pleasant smell of things roasting on the barbeques and the yapping of several dogs in their own dog beach. I was riding through the waves of several powerboats and decided just to sit this one out and float closer to the shore. That is when I noticed “Tyler”. He was on his back enjoying the buoyant lift of life jacket that was happily floating him out into a rising tide. There were some distressed looks from the shore and so my inner herding dog kicked into action and I decided to round up this stray pup.

“Hey bud, your Mom on the shore really wants you to get back to her” I said. Well this is when I knew I was facing a free thinker. He replied, “She isn’t my Mom!” and continued to look skyward with a beatific grin. So I took a look into the beach. I noticed another woman who was now charging down the sand like a zealous Seal trainee in BUD training. Under one arm was less than stable inflatable raft that may have just been pulled out off it wrapper, perhaps this was the Tyler’s Mom. So I gave her a nod and an ok sign. “Well bud, see that large powerboat coming this way” , I pointed out a large fiberglass double Decker thing coming our way.  “You might float right into it’s path”, I councilled him. Yet this boy was not buying into any fear tactics today. He smiled and blurted out “no it won’t”. Now, since I was floating towards him and may be in some logical union of synapses of a four year old brain, he had just figured out the simple affect of an incoming tide. He was safe and besides, he had roped another into enjoying some simple playful antics. So I bought into his grin and we were just content to enjoy and smile skyward like happy plankton.

Down the beach, there was the racous barking of at least ten dogs who were all interacting well enough accept for a German Sheppard, who ..for a moment took his life a little too seriously. Perhaps it was the canine antics that inspired my youthful floater. Hell, here was Huck at the riverside and I was not going to spoil his huckleberry ways. “Well, Tyler, I am just going to float here with you and lets see if we can stay out of trouble” and with that reply, he looked at me with a kind of acceptance that just makes your heart go lub dub. He had befriended me in the most humble of ways.

So we just let the barks and screams and an urgent comment “Tyler, you are going to get in trouble”  merrily mix into the sunny day sounds of the beach. Finally Tyler, knew he was heading for trouble and probably felt that a fellow “big dog” could help him. Yup there is always some help if you show your strength in majorities or may be just another goofy face might keep you in out of harms way. I grabbed him by his arms, hauled him on board “Clarity” and propelled him to shore. To show his new found strength, he let go of my board and swam his “Mom” who was attempting to go in a straight line. On her face was both the look of concern and apology. Hopefully, a slight glimmering of grin, showed a sense of humour that honoured her young son’s innocence. As she smiled back and said “thank you”, I did hope that Tyler didn’t get into too much trouble.

supcbsolo

Inspired by my own inner child and “dog spirit”, I felt a boost of humour and hope as I walked up the beach to place my board down. It was then that I discovered that one of my flip-flops had fallen off while exploring a nearby sand bar. I took a look back and soon found my self-playing a fun game of fetch. Yup, I could find this object. Hell, if a border collie can retrieve more that two thousand different objects, I could should easily be able to find a solitary flip-flop. I made it to the far shore and put my board next to two kids playing in the sand. I humped it up the shoreline only to discover a coconut. Being a random object to find, I held onto it and went by a jet skiing couple frolicking in the tidal pools. The young lass was a nice distraction in her white bikini yet my nose was on the trail and it wasn’t long before I found the missing flip flop caught in a tidal pool and gently cruising inward to the shore.

I attached the vagrant flip flop to the bungee cord with a locking D carbineer and reminded my self of how to keep things close at hand. I gave the lost coconut to the kids making a castle and smirked about a Monty Python line. Across the channel I paddled and kept a look out to see if my buddy Tyler was up to his antics again. Having returned to the shore, Mother Nature was preparing to put on her evening show. I had never seen this before. As the sun slowly began it’s slow arc to places West, the sky became a natural fireworks show of shades of orange. A poetic pair of paddlers inspired me to launch into the waves and simply take it all in. While I was impressed with yoga moves and the pure reverie of my fellow sup paddlers, I went ashore and took in the display with other beach folks.

supcbsunset1

On the beachfront, a photographer was busy taking snaps of a young women and her two kids. Her son, who may have been about Tyler’s age, carefully placed his croc’s in the sand, side by side, and rolled up his pants prior to stepping into the water. I just grinned and wondered what this young man would be. He joined in the snaps with the same reluctance that Tyler had to going to shore. This was a simple Sunday and between the smell of hamburgers and sun tan oil, the day came to a gentle close. Even the playing hounds next to me appeared to stop their play to ponder the setting sun. Then again, there was this bouncy standard white poodle with a crazy dog showstopper haircut. Blonds and beaches, could the same be true for other mutts? I am not sure. May be, with just the passage of time and tide, the present becomes a gift that you just cannot ignore. May be that is what Tyler was feeling as he floated in warm ocean, being both fearless and free to be. Thanks to Tyler for reminding a big dog of the simple things we need in life. Eat, sleep, poop and play!

sunset paddle board crescentindex

(for Vanilla girl)

Giving this day a chance…

 

Colonel Bogey March

Once upon a time, a man could get by with a little bit of confidence and fortitude to throw out a string of words with such a panache that these words sounded like sparkling notes of John Phillip Sousa and his famed marching band stomping through through town with such enthusiasm that each foot found an instinctive talent to stomp out a mystical synchronous beat.

I admire that skill. In fact, when I need an inspiration or two, I am always comforted by the words of another wanderer named Mark Twain. Yet as I approached Deep Cove, my internal dialog was blatting odd flat notes and was as loud and cacophonous as the classroom I had just exited. Between my ears, which were blocked by some moneran mischief, there were a variety of mental landmasses that I was attempting to navigate around. Yes, there were my usual concerns about how to find the finances to even dream about affording a scuba diving voyage to Thailand. Given the fact that my own vocation was now paying me so well that I was now teaching summer school, I decided to put dreaming on the back burner and busied my self with getting ready to paddle.

Today, however; up front and in the middle of my mental landscape was the towering structure known as my own meditations on the nature of love. I am thankful and have been lucky enough to state that I have been truly in love more than one time. I can even take a few more steps in the right direction and proclaim or confess that I now know what unconditional love is. Yes, I am not afraid to admit that I have also made some bone head mistakes and that being said, being single has it’s odd rough edges that sometimes need to be smoothed out. I have grown tired of the media referring to relationships as “complicated”. Complicated is trying to figure out a calculus equation to express how to successfully land a modular five billion dollar vessel on Mars. When it comes to matters of the heart, one of my go to options is to look outside of my own thoughts, read or listen to some else’s advice or take the time to see what nature can offer or if I am truly numbed and nonfunctional, I put another cassette in “Ataboy’s ” tape player.

So it did not surprise me, that as I watched a soggy mutt climb onboard a paddle board, that ol river rambler and nautical wheeler advice may be setting the tone for my evening paddle. Twain said that “it is not the size of the dog in a fight, it is the fight inside the dog” and judging by the calm and cool headedness of this fearless canine, I was seeing a lesson unfold. I have no idea why dogs trust humans as much as they do. Perhaps it is the fate of a brain that just doesn’t think too much about the how and whys in life. There is just an unconditional love. I could only imagine what my fellow mutt was thinking: “Yes, I will stand on this wobbly surface as you navigate through waves”, “Yes, I will stare down into the water and wonder what these large round things are”. “Yes, I will go without fear and with my nails sliding on this frickin rubber surface and I will have faith in a blind trust, that you, my humble owner, will take care of me and provide some water (which is fresh) and food after you amuse your self with this ordeal that you are putting me through”.

Fueled by a fertile imaginaton, I have come to appreciate what an amazing organ the human brain is. Between million of neurons and a multitude of tissue folds, the human brain can fabricate not only solutions to algebra equations, it can also remember inane quotes from Seinfeld while thinking about what is for dinner and who needs to be dropped off at what house. It can fabricate and solve critical thinking problems. It can remember odd quotable phrases and scheme up realities that now have been dubbed “complicated”. Take a flat piece of paper and crumple it up into a small ball and you have an image of a brain. A brain is much like a map that is almost impossible to fold up into a nice a tidy package, simply because it has way too many folds. Dogs, on the other hand, have a simpler brain with less folds. Navigating in their brains is probably like reading the important cue card in the back of an airplane seat. There are less folds and some times, if you are open minded, you begin to see a way of dealing with the daily on a sublime but rewarding point of view. In a case of emergency, please go to the nearest exit. If there is a lack of oxygen, a mask will fall out of space and hit you in the head. Please put the mask over a child or dog seating next to you prior to putting it on your face. So as I was launching my board and began to notice the large volume of flotsam in the water, I had to marvel at my canine comrades stoic wisdom to not to leave the safety of the board and indulge in an improptu game of fetch.

Follow the pups lead, I slowly let go of the urges to follow the path of another spark of thoughts. Thankfully, the water was calm and the evening was unfolding in a most pleasant of ways. It was time to let go of mental muddles and find some sense of balance on Clarrity. Now as I have stated before, I have the good fortune to spend time with a bunch of women who are both open to life’s challenges and are perhaps as fearless as mutt I was now watching. Mark Twain waxed poetically about fear and courage by saying “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”. As we launched out into the falling tide it became apparent that a few feet beneath our boards, a population of marine invertebrates were stimulating both an intriguing and unsettling affect. As the warmth of the ocean was happily increasing the population of plankton and fish, hungry travelers on the tides were now growing in size and numbers. Around me there were whoops like “ wow, look at the size of that one” and “ we should go to the aquarium and learn about these animals”. There was also that child like mischievious sparkle in some of the groups eyes, seeing who was rattled by the humble jellyfish.

Mental floss

Given that my professional status as an educator implies some wisdom about the biology, I decided to follow Mr Twains advice and just kept my mouth shut. It was time to paddle, flex those knees and thighs, wobble through the waves, keep an eye on the circling ski boat and make sure that my communing with nature did not include getting slimmed by a Cnidarian. I noticed that one of our pod was showing more caution. While many of us adapted to the odd sets of waves, my four legged friend was sharing it’s style and elan with one of our pod. Face it, four limbs are a helluva lot more stable than two and jelly fish, well fear or no fear, it is a know fact that some species have tentacles that can pack a mighty punch. Dangerous or not, all feet, canine and human, remained on deck and away from population below us. Then, as we stopped for a break, there was a miss timed fall into the water and a very rapid return with a great deal of laughter. The jelly fish, who are not even fish, were not disturbed nor concerned by being flattened by a human. Though they can move muscles, the actual process of coordinating that movement is a natural neurology event without a brain. Reflecting upon the lack of cerebral fortitude, Mark..heh I can be informal..might have been inspired to  “remark” (bad pun..) “ It is just like man’s vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions. So it was that we took in the fading day with a quiet sense of happiness until an alert Mom noticed the time. Now, all sitting on our boards, feet dangling in the moving tide, we were oblivious to the actual realities on the planet where folks have solid reasons to ponder what a swarm of venoumous jellies can do..

Video about Cnidaria

Attack of Giant Jelly Fish

Yes, it is true, if you let a little fear sneak into the ol noggin, the voyage can become more than just a gentle saunter in the park. Yet just like horses rounding the last corner, there was now that eager enthusiasm to return to Deep Cove. Prior to that though, there was a detour to a nearby bridge to marvel at a pool of small fish. The ebbing tide was now helping to make the return trip faster. I help but notice that fatigue and perhaps fear was still challenging one of our flock. So I decided to hang back and travel with our cautious cohort. My rational was quite simple and inspired by sublime truisms of Mr Twain. “ Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up. This seemed good advice since my ears were still clogged and I was still testing my skill to converse and stay upright at the same time. While my paddling partner adjusted from being on all fours to standing up, I quietly listened to her tale of the past few years. It had not been a simple nor easy passage of time. We swapped stories about how life evolves as you get older. We laughed and respected the notion that her 75 year old dad just married a woman who was thirteen years younger. Twain said Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. He also remarked that. “‘Wrinkles should merely indicate where the smiles have been.’ With each paddle stroke, the conversation continued. While the tide was now against us, each tale told and each paddle stroke provided more confidence as the shore became visible. Beneath the surface, the jellyfish were no longer present. In her voice I sensed a change too. She began to share an upbeat agenda of some of her new intents for this year.

Grief can take care if itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with”.

While I changed course and paddle from side to the other side to see which ear was working best, I attempted to listen about her desires to now take on more challenges. In her voice, I could hear how the fear was now losing the battle as I detoured, for just a second, to playfully bounce through some stray outbound waves.By the time we reached the harbour, the sun was almost setting and the tidal shoreline was now starting to reveal itself. My four legged friend, the soggy pup, was now happy on land and the dock side operations were now coming to a close as a kayaker showed off some freshly caught crabs. Having pushed my body a little bit harder, my foot now decided it had done enough and feigned the affect of being asleep as I attempted to step ashore. The internal dialog within my own head was now a quiet hush. Instead there was the peaceful rhythm of the ebbing tide smoothing off pebbles on the shore. My invertebrate friends, the jellies, were now heading out into the straights. I was fortunate enough to have a some free jars of “sore no more” to pass out to a tired instructor and to members of my Monday night crew. I paused and took in the view. I sent off a text to my bud ,“Vanilla girl”, and included a calm photo of the cove. I thanked her for inspiring me to “keep paddling”. I hummed a few bars of “Mental Floss” and rolled up Clarrity into her case. Yes it is nice to get a little mental floss.

Well as the story goes, it is now a day later. After sharing my paddling thoughts with my innocent and captive students, I gave some free samples of “sore no more” to folks at the Vancouver Folks festival office. I picked up a new cap at MEC and made sure my business cards have now been updated with the “sore no more” logo. Inspired, I let Mark Twain’s words flow through my neurons like gentle contractions of the jellyfish. While my reading of his quotes followed neither obvious pattern nor intent, a string of quotes seemed to surface. Calm and peaceful like, they came together and flowed together like the smooth and efficient modulated medusian contractions.

When you fish for love, bait with your heart, not your brain”. There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.“Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain”

So my mental landscape changes form once again. Like my past and present endeavours, I too have cast off the lines of mental fears and now sail away from the comfortable shores of habitual patterns. Yes, Mr Twain, after all these years I am still listening to you.

To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence”.

So I ignore the doubts and fears and have the confidence to do those things that folks seem to tell me that I cannot do. Clarrity keeps me honest and aware of the some simple facts.

What a wee little part of a person’s life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself”.

So that about does er..Just another yarn about another day of paddling. Yup,a few stray words surface to share what is going on between my clogged inner ears. I smile and see Mr Twain grinning back at me from the screen. He reminds me why I take the time to weave these word and thoughts together and share them with you..

Give every day the chance to become the most beautiful day of your life.’.
mark twain

More words from my pal Mark

 

 

Just me and the blue Heron

Bob away my blues

When I awoke this morning I realized I had successfully navigated another trip around the sun. Given that two close friends had just gotten an odd wake up call from mother nature as to how grand but frail our voyage can be, I decided to take my sister’s advice by remaining in the moment. Step by step and mindfully, I loaded up my now clean truck with a few bottles of water, some extra shorts  and made sure “my Red Paddle paddle board and skinny body set off to find new place to visit”. Vancouver bay was a gong show both of traffic and wind so I sought out the solitude of the Deas Slough area to find a new detour down stream and “keep paddling”.

I have learned that you do not push the river but learn to adapt to it. I guess this can be true for sneaking into estuaries and watery by ways that branch off the Fraser River. In my last visits to the slough, I have enjoyed the quiet of early morning paddles and the flight of eagles above me. I have learned when the gate to the park opens (7 am) and I have found times to avoid jet skis, power boats, and water skiing. Today I arrived around eleven and the rowers were just coming in from their morning work out. I found shade under a great massive tree and did my pre=paddle workout of pumping up Clarity. Even now, I find it amusing and ironic that in order to find clarity’s true shape, it involves twenty odd minutes of pumping her up.

Besides a few sun bathers and some kids jumping off the dock, my first few kilometers of paddling was rolling back time to calm hours voyaging through northern Ontario. As one stroke fell into another, I started to replace lyrics of Marshall Tucker Band song “Bob, away my blue”.

“I am going down to the river,

I got a fancy carbon fiber paddle in my hand

I got my ice cold water in an old MEC plastic can

I going to paddle be shady tree on the river bank where it is cool

I am gonna open up my eyes, dream and let Clarity bob away my blues”.

The impending noon day breeze was now in my face. I grinned back and realized it was just a tease. The slough has become my testing ground for improving my paddling. Just like the video said…I am now letting my core and hips do most of the work. Thankfully, many hours at sea listening to the same tape in an ancient water proof walkman has imprinted a long list of Jimmy Buffet tunes. I hummed a few more chords that could match my stroke but I was distracted by anchored ski boat. I noticed a couple that may or may not been coupling and “being charitable and cautious” I decided that couple on board some private space even if they were anchored fifty yards from the freeway over pass. Goes to show ya, you can’t put logic into the equation when the horizontal cha cha is going on.

Honey do

I paddled by a mess of yachts docked to shore and grinned about my own solitary situation. Yup that one would do, but they need to change the hull colour. Hell, I am traveling solo and I was feeling quite happy with that. A few bars of “Honey do” by Jimmy and I was launching into the Fraser river in search of a quiet little creek while impersonating “a bunch of blues torpedos”. Mid channel, a police boat pulled a power boater over as I ducked into a calm and flat backwater creek between Gunn and Kirkland island. I took note of the tide and wind and realized that I was on a falling tide and going home was going to be a treat. Half way up this creek, two solitary occupants of a perhaps unknown cabin got into their boat and motored away. While coupling clues may have been tossed at me,  I went up this creek with the intent of exploring what natural surprises I could find on my own.

My friend Harry has told me that I am now on a quest. He is a bit of a wizard. He is someone that Deepak Chopra would enjoy. When I told him that the past was dead, he quietly replied, “it can’t be. Where would time machines go?”. Imagine, six kilometers down stream from your truck and now you are the only person floating along a muddy estuary creek. Inspired by some Monday night antics, I did a downward dog pose and started to attempt the snake pose when my pretzel making endeavours were interupted by a  visitor from space (actually the blue space above my head). In this case, she was a blue heron and she landed and started to pace the shoreline like a Mom at a checkout stand, tapping her toes and all in a hurry to make dinner for her brood back home. I knew that she was a female, if only because she lacked the false feathery grandeur that some male feathery folk have. She was looking for food and I detoured across the creek, to sit and take in the solitude that was cool as calming breeze.

Up ahead, I noticed a derelict rig from a fishing boat. Neither the heron nor I read anything into this. We were just by the river, watching it flow and noticing how shallow things were becoming. As she paced the shoreline, (I swear I have never seen a bird pace along a shore lick this gal) I was now being reminded about the true nature of estuary creeks. Things go up and down with the tide and Mother Nature was giving me gentle nudge to get back to where I came from. I turned around and gave a nod to my poetic crane. How many haikus have been written about Cranes?

Image result for pictures of blue herons

Heron in Haiku (Pacific Northwest(

She was not impressed by my sentiment. After a few more steps along the muddy shore, she took flight and sounded out a prehistoric “caw”.

A quick way to cross a river is not to paddle into it, but use the current to ferry your self across going side ways. Being a bit of a water rat, I used my boating skills to get closer to the Deas Slough. A tug boat went by with two loads of pulp and barely made a wake. However; the once quiet slough was now filled with an assortment of folks finding amusement upon the water. I wondered if I had a big yacht or even a ski boat, could I attract a lovely bikini clad lady as the one I passed. Like the heron, she was not ruffled nor did she bother with my presence on ol Clarity. We were just a distraction for her intentions to make her skin brown. By the time, I made it to the rowing dock, a whole flock of folks had arrived. I attempted to surf off a passing ski boat. For one last moment of peace, I paused to watch an eagle soaring above my head. Feathery friends or not, Nature was quietly reminding me of what Depak has said about love and nature…Thanks to my sis and a private pal..I was lucky enough to get the message.

The mind loves whatever repeats a pleasurable experience from the past. “I love this” basically means “I love repeating what felt so good before”.”
Deepak Chopra, The Way of the Wizard: Twenty Spiritual Lessons for Creating the Life You Want

“Nature reflects the moods of the wizard.”
Deepak Chopra, The Way of the Wizard: Twenty Spiritual Lessons for Creating the Life You Want

The basis of everything in the wizards’ world rests upon the insight “All this is myself.” Therefore, in accepting the world as it is, the wizard views everything in the light of self-acceptance, which is the light of love.”
Deepak Chopra, The Way of the Wizard: Twenty Spiritual Lessons for Creating the Life You Want

“Now take all these qualities together: order, balance, evolution and intelligence. What you have is a description of love. It’s not the popular ideal, it is the wizard’s love – the force that upholds life and nurtures it.”
Deepak Chopra, The Way of the Wizard: Twenty Spiritual Lessons for Creating the Life You Want

and that is when I first saw the bear…

Knees bent and back straight

I must confess..that it was not too long ago..that I was humping towards the the ninth hole and the fairways were dried up and acting like like concrete slabs at the world worse parking lot. I was just skating above par but the water had evaporated out of my bandana and I was busy day dreaming about the cold pitcher beer after the eighteen hole. I thought..”wouldn’t be nice just to step off the fairway and jump into the water..”.

I pared the 17th whole and feeling pretty full of my own inherent and genetic skill to strike the wee white ball, I launched an airborne assault on the 18th hole..a par three with a five wood. After many hours of frying my body in some sideways effect of global warming, I discovered that I was a little hesitant to step out into the noon day sun….even if I was somewhat a mad dog and English. Later, well at least two days, I some how forgot this note to my self when I decided to sit by the pool just for an hour or two prior to going to Deep Cove to paddle.

Now my truck, “Ataboy”, has a tape deck and it was my good fortune to discover a misplaced tape underneath the passenger seat. So rolling over through rush hour traffic,  I was singing along with Jimmy Buffet, rolling my “r’s and g’s” to  a well played tune with lyrics that go a little bit like this, ”I ain’t a drinking man …but temptation took the best of me..and so when the bear ambled up to me..I did not flip or fly..it hung em up..cuz..I was god’s own drunk…and a fearless man..”. After a less than peppy twenty minutes of manhandling  a pump and without to much trepidation, ol Clarity and I launched into another paddle out of Deep Cove.

Yes..the hangover was gone. I had stayed out of the sun and watched a few videos

golden rules of paddling

waves

paddle stroke

basic paddling

Though it was hot outside, I had been productive in my own abode. I had done a few rounds of laundry, cleaned house and even made the commode presentable. I had washed all my gear and I even had found a MEI jug so that now I had a source of water. Yes..I was a fearless man..and that is when I got hooked into the first set of waves. Well, to be honest, lets just say close sets of water tempting to lurch me ass over teacup. I rode out the first few sets. The next set, I grabbed the board on all fours and watched a few other paddlers follow my lead. By the turn around point, I was enthusiastically told..”heh..it will be easier..the tide is with us”. My thighs were much like the rest of the crew. Some of the girls had done a four hour workshop on Vancouver Bay the day before and they were tired..and that ol orb in the sky was just teasing us as to it’s intensity.

So returning home to the cove, I launched out into the waves and pretended I was a new buck kahuna in Hanalei Bay. “Cowabunga..mihalo bra!” Ya I know da kine…but the disaster voice was stomping up a fuss in my frontal lobe.  Down a wave and…”bend knees, straight back”. Another few strokes..faster this time…”bend knees, straight back”…paddle ..faster. Soon I had separated from the group..some one yelled “heh what are you doing out there..we do not smell that bad..”. I was trying to figure out how this tide could be messing up my sense of balance or was I not seeing eye to eye with my buddy..the bear.

Turning into the cove, I dodged the break water and started to look for some calm water. There was now only one voice muttering.. “bent knees and straight back”. Light headed and a bit sunburned, I swore I was seeing Sam Elliot in the Big lebowski giving his rundown on the whole show..Yes..the Dude abides but his thighs are on fire and light up like Vegas on the Forth of July. I had just a few seconds to wonder if my back was frozen, fried like an egg over easy or had I just given up on pondering spasming lower back muscles.

Mid harbour return and a returning rowing dingy comes along my port side. The driver  has a broken throttle cable, so I tease my self with mind bending illusions and paddle out of it’s wake. Who really needs gas fumes up your nose? I dig in and end up going up over the dingy’s wake and whoops..down a wave. Ok..it was not big daddy material but Clarity moved along like a goose releasing a crap load of barley. Surfing..no..I was just trying to keep stable and saying my mantra..”knees bent, straight back”.

Later, as the sun was setting and two planets aligned to put on the pre evening show prior to moon coming up on a cool clear evening, I sat on the tailgate of my truck and stared at the ground. My skin, now getting brown, had a slight hue of red. I should have stayed out of the sun but heh….what was I to do? I was getting caught up in reading about MRI’s and the size of a canines olfactory receptors. I had just patted a Rodesian ridge back and smiled at a passing family who gave me this odd worried stare, Perhaps they were wondering what beast I had tangled with. I smiled and said..”some days you eat the bear and some days the bear eats you”.

Yup..pert near wore me out. Shucks Sam..I can hear you..yarning about westward the wagons and the dusty trails and I am just happy to have made it ashore and packed up “Clarity”.

Yet the bug is under the skin..which is now tanning nicely… and the lure for more adventures does call. Tomorrow at six am, I am off to do a Canada Day dawn paddle..no sun there. Then I am going to see what a moon paddle is like the next day. Paddlefest is on my birthday, though I am not sure I can string along a deal out of that one.

So when those waves hit..which they will..keep your golden rules in mind and act upon them….bent knees and back straight…To hell with the pain..there is sore nor more for that. While a calm paddle on the slough may do to build up your stamina, some times it is up to you to see what you can bear. Nope, your are not living unless you test your self.