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.

Paddling on Calm Waters

Paddling on Calm Waters

Just south of Vancouver, the Deas Slough travels under highway ninety nine. Just as your eyes adjust to being in a tunnel, you resurface and for just a moment, you notice two marinas and a patch of flat calm water. The water’s surface reflects the passing cumulus clouds. You won’t hear the scream of an eagle. You will not see the wake of a swimming otter. That is why I now paddle here. It is a chance for me to follow a wobbling path into my own beliefs and to discover what may or may not be there.

When you think about it, standing up in a floating object is something we are taught not to do. “Don’t stand up in a canoe!” is what you were actually taught at camp. I even shared this nugget of wisdom with my own students when I was a canoe instructor. Put you body in a position of imbalance and you have to face the consequences. In fact, standing up when other are sitting down is also not condoned. Think of a restless student, glued to their seat, wishing only to get up and move around. When you think about it, there is something boldly contrary about defying a belief about something as unquestionable as gravity. You need a sense of trust to believe in your own self. So I mutter to my self “It is ok. The worst thing that is going to happen is that I will get wet”.  I also have to be honest with my own “self”. Sure, I may look stupid or even get some muck up my nose or in my ears but what is really driving the board, my trusting “self” or my own fears?

When I first arrived at the slough, all the rowers were already on the water. I was the only person on the shore and I had never taken “Clarity” out onto such calm water. Since early this spring, every voyage on any paddle has been a test of my sense of balance to responds to the action of the water beneath my board. At first, I made the mistake of tensing up my whole sense of awareness. I learned to adapt to the ripples by bending my knees and feeling where the weight was in my feet. The larger the wave, the lower to the board I got. I even dropped to the board on all fours to ride out a powerboat wake. After many times on the water, I actually lost control, fell into the water and almost drifted into a powerboat at the dock. Fear was running the show and my body was responding. I put my self into a situation where I was reacting to a tiger who was not even near me. My beliefs about that tiger was the tension that my body was feeling.

Gliding onto the calm slough surface, there is still the unmistakeable tension in my legs. I still judge how fast or slow it takes me to stand up. I still hesitate as I stand up and put the paddle into the water. Thankfully, I no longer spend that much time indulging in listening to my inner fearful voice . Now I sense pure and  simple sensory neuron messages to the ol cerebellum. Just stand up! To heck with the upper noggin getting into the game, it is all about balance. One more stroke and the grin begins to grow. I am feeling courage, not in my own inner monolog but with each muscle contraction in my arms. I bend over and attempt to pull harder. Then I have to be honest with my self. There is going to be lower back pain but I can overcome this. A quiet calming voice relays a private note to self , “there is no need to hurt your self”.

The calm surface of the water begins to create an integrated sensation of floating and movement between my body and the glassy surface of the water. Still the “tiger” may be lurking. So I still scan the surface for possible ripples. Is there a boat coming out of that marina? Is that jet ski going to slow down? The doubtful fearful voice just will not go away. There is still the tension in my twitching calf muscles and my feet feel like they are going numb. Instead of pretending that I am calm as the surrounding water, I begin to honestly accept the fact that my body is still feeling a contrary sensation.

A hawk hovers over a nearby fence. It too is defying gravity. Instead of soaring, it is frozen in space looking for it’s breakfast. For the first twenty or more strokes the slough is completely empty of any vessel. There is the distant roar of the highway over pass that is soon hushed by the trees thick with new leaves on the shore. There is a muted silences accept for the simple act of putting the paddle into the water.

Then it begins and some how my thoughts begin to wander. What is that branch over there? Why is there foam on the water? How deep is this murky brown solution? Why did I forget to bring my watch? One bad paddle entry and the hips do a yip and rule one kicks into play. Keep your paddle in the water. Sense the surface of the water with your feet. Feel the connection between you, the board and the water. This is when the actual act of honesty kicks in. You cannot lie to your self when you are in a state of imbalance or under the illusion of being balanced. It is no big stretch to understand why you are wearing a grin. You are opening up to your own renewing nature. You are taking ownership for your own paddling experience. There is no judge on the shore giving out points. There no one wondering who the grey haired dude is paddling on this quiet morning. It is time for the ol self to take a back seat and just listen to the slow ripple of a wake that follows the board.

So what do I learn while paddling. That is sometimes takes a type of courage to be honest with your own self. Even in the calm waters, you can fool your self into beliefs and fears that just are not there. Letting go of those beliefs, like the lack of wind on the waters surface, creates a calm.

So later this evening,  I read “honesty is a path that leads to happiness. Becoming honest is an act of self renewal”. I get that from paddling on the slough, my arms ache and the calves cramp up but I smile as I watch an elderly skipper varnish his Christa Craft. No wake here, just dealing with the responsibilities of owning a vessel.

Later, I am lucky enough to share a walk on car free Main Street in of Vancouver. I enjoy the sensation of sensing the wind as it causes nearby flags to flutter. I see the diversity of the passers by. I recall another quote from Living Deliberately, “ The result of living honestly is feeling and sharing-compassion and empathy! There is a joy in willingly integrating with the consciousness of others”. I do know that I fail in some of these attempts. Instead of pointless judgements, I say to my self “you are both innocent and responsible for your own actions”. Unlike being on “Clarity”, my consequence is not a splash into the water. I look into nearby eyes and wonder what they are seeing and thinking. Honestly, I try to find a way to glide over the fears of unknown consequences.

So each day, I attempt to take this nebulous understanding of peace back from the water I have traveled upon. I am sore and happily tired. Yes, my words sometimes blurt out of my mouth like a misplaced paddle stroke. I look into another person’s eyes and I lurch and feel a possible imbalance.  With the new technology, there is always a misunderstood text or an email that may be unanswered. I turn off the thoughts of fear and let the feeling of calm flow through. A friend’s quote rings true, “do not push the river”. I ride the sensation of waves of feelings and do not indulge in giving them a label. I know that I can muster up the responsibility and the courage. I can honestly say.” yup I did that because I was honestly afraid”. Even in the calmest of waters or oddest of situations, you have to have the courage to be honest enough with your own self and trust that self.

Keep the paddle in the water and keep moving even if the surface is glassy and flat. Beneath the surface are those hidden beliefs that you need to challenge and question. There is nothing to fear in these murky waters. We can let go of those fears and beliefs that may be shaping the actual floating experience above them. “Is there some dark corner in the human mind into which none dare to look? Some core assumption that none dare to utter?..” perhaps it is the actual attempt to seek out incontrovertible truths”…Yes..Jack…I can handle the truth! Hurrah!

Quotes from Living Deliberately by Harry Palmer

“Clarity” and “all the best”.

Clarity and Ataboy Deep Com

Clarity and “all the best”

 My buddy Pete would tell you that if you got all the soccer and hockey Moms together and formed a military unit, it would be the most efficient and enthusiastic unit in the forces . Likewise, most of what I learned about being a single parent was from Mom’s on the sidelines as I coached their girls or boys. So my introduction to Deep Cove paddling was an inspirational voyage into how women actually get things done.

Now for those of you who do not know, “Clarity” is my new redpaddle company “explorer”. It is the inflatable board seen in the picture. I arrived at Deep cove just to check out the whole venue of what paddling was going to be like. In 20 minutes my board was ready to go. I named my board “Clarity” simply because I was offered some sage advice a week prior to getting to my new board. A wise doctor looked at me and said, “so do you want to see the world with joy and light or do you want to continue beating your self up?” When you think about it, iIt is a pretty simple question to answer. Then she said, “if you look at each day with clarity, your emotions will flow and your spirits will soar. If you contrast each observation with others, your emotions will get attached to past experience and you will sink into self-reflection. Let love and not fear, guide your through life”. Her advice seemed to make sense to me and it was a great name for a board!

From a paddle-boarding point of view, the trick is not to sink and to keep moving with each stroke. So I named my board “Clarity” and in true nautical fashion, my vessel is a “she”. I was inspired to paddle from a “she” and perhaps it is not a coincidence that I found my self being befriended by a dynamic bunch of women out of Deep cove to take “Clarity” on her first long paddle. Of course, I was not aware of the distance we were going to travel.

I was just sitting by the shore after about an hour of putzing around in the inner harbor of Deep cove. “Clarity” was happy bouncing about in the small waves created by the incoming tide and I was resting my legs. Suddenly, I noticed a proficient group of woman bringing boards down to the shore. This was a tight bunch of fit women. I noticed both the confidence and solidarity amongst them.

Deep Cove now has a dedicated group of 40 to 50 Women who meet on Thursday each week to foster a program that has been going for over five years called “women on the water”. Yet this was a sunny Monday and this smaller group where a social group that came out just to work out and to foster a growing SUP community.

I was contemplating going ashore but a open hearted face called out and said.”heh, do you want to come and paddle with us?”. It was like being invited to play on the winning team. Without any hesitation or wondering how far the paddle was going to be, I grinned and said “yes”. So what if I had already paddled for an hour, these women had opened the door and I was not going to shy away. Immediately, the whole flock befriended me. For the last hour, I had quietly traveled along the shoreline with a bunch of returning Canada geese and now I was in the middle of a great bunch of enthusiastic and spirited women.

I must confess, I am in awe of the Wicca ways and abilities of women who bond together with challenging activities like paddle boarding. I immediately felt at ease as I was invited into some great conversations. We had just paddled out of Deep cove when a fast moving object with a dynamic paddler in orange appeared. Ellen, a North shore dynamo who, helps with handicapped skiers, said.”you need to Cory, she is in charge here. She will tell you about paddling”. At that moment, Cory had rounded up the flock and was sending out suggestion in a clear and positive fashion.” Come on girls” She barked, “coming out here, I noticed that none of you are bending your hips and extending your arms. It is so easy, it is just like sex” . From the edge of the group, Christy, another grinning paddler said.”Heh Cory, we have mixed company!”. I laughed and said..”no worries ladies, I am a sailor” and with that, whatever ice that needed be broken was quickly melting with the fading afternoon sun.

This evenings objective was a not too distant Hamper Island. Ellen was filling me in on the history of the island and I was letting my hips bend and working on my stroke with a big grin. I noticed that everyone had a smile. It is hard to be taking in the natural beauty and calm of paddling without a beatific grin. Cory kept watch over the bunch of us with a patient and caring fashion. As a canoe guide, I had worked with talented and confident women like Cory. These were the bold prairie girls who migrated from Alberta to BC to share their love of being on the water. These were the fearless rough and ready women who broke into the once male dominated guiding crowd. Time slipped away and I was once again an “ace wilderness guide”. Just one stroke in, balance and glide. My own personal contrasting voice was now silent in my head and “Clarity” was busy keeping my thigh muscles contracting.

At the end of Hamber Island, the tide was running at a good clip and I got my first good taste of paddling through moving water. Christy, who had initially invited me to join the mob, said. you have to paddle through the waves and here I was attempting to surf an inbound current. Clarity bounced along like the happy goose. I had been following the rest of the ladies. I clenched my teeth and bent down and paddled a little less fearful of falling in. By the time we all paused, Nora, a true deep cove citizen was already jumping off her board and cooling off. Cory looked at me and said “so are you going in?” and so my own baptism commenced. My pfd was too loose but Nora cheered me on and said “leg up on the board, you can do it..”. Yes, I was now part of a “can do it” crowd. The sun was about to fade and soon a pod of paddlers set off to return to Deep Cove.

Two powerboats where busy burning fossil fuels and Cory got us all to wait prior to crossing back to the cove. Some one attempted to take a picture with her phone. it fell in the water and at first there was a moment of frustration, which soon vanished with amazing laughter. The paddling was working its magic. Everyone now had a grin and a strong fluid stroke. I was grinning about Cory’s drill sergeant advice and Christy was making fun of it.

The late evening sun was now turning the cove into a magical place. I could hear one of the woman say “heh you should paint this!”. Christy told me how paddle boarding had helped a friend of hers lose weight but habits had lured her back to ”a challenging weight”. “Look around you, North shore women are fit!”. What impressed me was their dynamic balance of physical fitness and mental fitness. Everyone was upbeat and positive. These are the women who provide the glue with organization and families. They work, parent and to calm the challenges of family life and to find some form of peace.. they paddle boarded. The woman who inspired me to paddle board is such a woman. She would definitely fit in with this bunch. As my flock mates came close to shore, Christy asked “so are you coming back next week?”. I grinned and said “yes” and before I knew it. Christy yelled over to Nora..”he is coming back next week!”. “Clarity” and I were now part of something bigger than our selves. In a manner what appeared to be seconds, these women had already packed up and were off to a fundraiser. I was just adjusting my limbs to a 5 k paddle and cleaning off and deflating “Clarity”.

There is an expression that some of these women use at the end of their emails and letters, it is “all the best”. This is how they work. They inspire everyone to bring out “all their best”. I salute you ladies for showing a solitary odd duck to bring out his own best. I definitely will return and I highly recommend others to follow. For other women, find out about the Women on the Water program. For other couples. let go of the self-books and get on the water. You will be thankful for it.

For more information contact

Deep Cove Canoe & Kayak Centre

Canoe & Kayak Rental Service

Address: 2156 Banbury Rd, North Vancouver, BC V7G 2T1

Phone:(604) 929-226

Sixteen Things Calvin and Hobbes Said Better Than Anyone Else

In no particular order, is a selection of quotes that nail everything from the meaning of life to special underwear. Enjoy.

On life’s constant little limitations

Calvin: You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don’t help.

On expectations

Calvin: Everybody seeks happiness! Not me, though! That’s the difference between me and the rest of the world. Happiness isn’t good enough for me! I demand euphoria!

On why we are scared of the dark

Calvin: I think night time is dark so you can imagine your fears with less distraction.

On the unspoken truth behind the education system

Calvin: As you can see, I have memorized this utterly useless piece of information long enough to pass a test question. I now intend to forget it forever. You’ve taught me nothing except how to cynically manipulate the system. Congratulations.

On the cruel reality of commercial art

Hobbes: Van Gogh would’ve sold more than one painting if he’d put tigers in them.

On the tragedy of hipsters

Calvin: The world bores you when you’re cool.

On the tears of a clown

Calvin: Isn’t it strange that evolution would give us a sense of humour? When you think about it, it’s weird that we have a physiological response to absurdity. We laugh at nonsense. We like it. We think it’s funny. Don’t you think it’s odd that we appreciate absurdity? Why would we develop that way? How does it benefit us?

Hobbes: I suppose if we couldn’t laugh at things that don’t make sense, we couldn’t react to a lot of life.

Calvin: (after a long pause) I can’t tell if that’s funny or really scary.

On the falling of sparrows (or providence’s lack of a timetable)

Calvin: Life is full of surprises, but never when you need one.

On why winter is the cruellest of seasons

Calvin: Getting an inch of snow is like winning 10 cents in the lottery.

On the gaping hole in contemporary art’s soul

Calvin: People always make the mistake of thinking art is created for them. But really, art is a private language for sophisticates to congratulate themselves on their superiority to the rest of the world. As my artist’s statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance.

On playing Frankenstein with words

Calvin: Verbing weirds language.

On realising God is more Woody Allen than Michael Bay

Calvin: They say the world is a stage. But obviously the play is unrehearsed and everybody is ad-libbing his lines.

Hobbes: Maybe that’s why it’s hard to tell if we’re living in a tragedy or a farce.

Calvin: We need more special effects and dance numbers.

On why ET is real

Calvin: Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.

On looking yourself in the mirror

Hobbes: So the secret to good self-esteem is to lower your expectations to the point where they’re already met?

On the future

Calvin: Trick or treat!

Adult: Where’s your costume? What are you supposed to be?

Calvin: I’m yet another resource-consuming kid in an overpopulated planet, raised to an alarming extent by Madison Avenue and Hollywood, poised with my cynical and alienated peers to take over the world when you’re old and weak. Am I scary, or what?

On the truth

Calvin: It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy…Let’s go exploring!

Semper Gumby…stay flexible

Semper Gumby (Stay flexible)

What is the net affect of little lessons that we learn in life? How do a few words become the directional marks upon a moral compass? I am standing upon my new paddleboard and I am about to leave the safety of the harbour. I have paddled past the last bridge and the fuel station and now power boats are able to kick in the their engines and create wakes that will test my own balance.

It seems that every faith system has it’s own code or pillars of belief. It is common to hear ”well these are the four primary things to remember” or “one must abide by these three crucial rules”.

At a young and impressionable age, the words honour, courage and commitment got tossed my way. For me, the initial meaning of honour seemed to bring forth images of knights and their round table. It was an understanding of integrity that had to be a deep and personal understanding. Courage was that scene you saw in all the movies, where the brave Marine would sacrifice their own lives for the rest of the platoon. Commitment, well I always think of a quote Anson Dorrance wrote about Mia Hamm. “The vision of a champion is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when nobody else is looking.

I grew up with these ideas in my noggin. After a nearly fatal motorcycle accident, it appeared that I might never run or even walk again. I drew strength from these words.

Contrary  to some folks assumptions, I rose up the ranks within professional yachting to become a skipper and tactician. Later in life, I entered my own profession of teaching and became a master educator. Along the way, the way my ethos tempered. With time, my beliefs gave way to less hostile situations and I wondered if I could return the my youth and just “abide”. Could you take the code of the marines and fuse it with a Zen perception?

When you think of it, honour is to believe in something larger than your own self. It is letting go of the ego voice and letting the body and spirit combine to show a hidden voice. Likewise, courage is to have the strength to let go of those things that hold you back and to reach for a point of acceptance. Finally there is the whole set of challenges of commitment. What do you do when your faith fails you and your feet soar into the air after yet another hug wake?

My newfound love of paddle boarding has been inspired by a lovely lady’s love who went over the horizon. She left me with a path to follow, “Keep paddling”. So I took her advice to heart. I began redefining my own relationship with my own body. I lost thirty-five pounds prior to even stepping onto a board. I began to honour not only my own body but also my own emotions. It was ok to feel these waves and even attempt to overcome them. Instead of doubt, I started to listen to that inner voice that gave me courage. “You can do it”, said my inner child. You have the courage! The pain in my back became less, I accepted the challenges of paddling into the wind. Most of all, I let go of my own fears and felt the strength of love. I could hear her voice, “keep paddling” and I saw my own body overcoming something I had thought I could never do.

Slowly, I have started to define my own pillars of paddling. I wrote them down and played around with their order. Most of all, I decided that if I was going to make some changes that it started with me. For ten years, I had held my self back both with pain, excess weight and an inner voice that was not fuelled by spirit but by doubt. The first challenge was to focus on the present. The first step, the first stroke and yes even the first splash into the water, inspired me to create the F.I.R.S.T. Paddle boarding and life pneumonic.

So stay with me and let see how this flies.

You are placing your board in the water, the wind is slowly blowing through the rigging at the dock. You can hear the cry of gulls and you feel the warmth of the sun on your face. You attach you foot cord and prior to that first step onto the board, you let go of the inner voices and feel the present. Feel your pulse as you grip the paddle and feel you feet attempt to find balance.

Yes, you on the water and with imbalance you will get wet. You are mostly salt water any way and the wet suit and or extra gear and flotation device will keep you afloat. I…let go of the I and realize ..it is only water. So what if you fall in. So what if you make a fool of your self in front of a restaurant deck full of dining patrons. So you didn’t adapt quickly enough and the tenth harbour ferries wake caught you napping. It is only water.

There is the shudder, the forward and backward lurch and the grin as you taunt the gods and a newfound balance kicks in. Now is the time to breath. Inward, for five seconds, hold the breath and then let go. This too will pass. With each wobble is a moment in between when you can find balance. Remember to breath.

Spend too much time looking at your feet and you will not be able to find balance. Spend too much time in your own head and you lose sight of the horizon that is guiding you onward. See outside of the board. Prior to the wakes catching you off guard, watch for their patterns and adjust your course to go across the wake at an angle. Repeating back to feeling the moment, relaxing and repeating a quiet mantra, |..it is only water..remember..breath and the final but most important advice..

Keep your paddle tip in contact with the water. Keep moving. The greatest risk of imbalance is when you are not moving. Stay stagnant and there is no change. Change is always occurring though. How to deal with change? Put your self first. Honouring that self does not mean to boast or brag. It shows a sense of integrity to start from within and find that source to move with. Tip to water.

On the water, I find a sense of peace that sometimes eludes me on shore. I find that state of mind where I can heal and let go of the ruffles of the day. Now I look at my new board and smile, it is my own personal device to get “my Zen on”. I can go back in time and fuel that fire within and yelp like an innocent child. I can laugh and smile when inside, there may be emotions that attempt to create salty tears. It is only water.

It is one of four primal states of matter. My inner compass keeps guiding me back onto the water. Yes, I have now soared into the air due to another massive wake. Yes, I am griping my paddle both with rage and a clear understanding of how much I paid for the bloody thing. What on earth was I thinking! Yet the fire is within and with that fire, I climb onto my board. I breath in and pause. I look to see if there are any more boats and with a wobble and a grunt, I stand up and immediately put my paddle into the water. You come F.I.R.S.T. if you have the strength to honour what you body, mind and spirit can achieve. Yes, she is right…I must keep paddling.

1. F for find balance

2. I for I am not afraid..it is only water

3. R for remember to breath

4. S for see outside of the board

5. T for tip in the water..the paddle tip..not you!

Keep paddling!

 

Rolling with the Dude

One of the joys of travel is that you can go to another location and become some one that “no body knows your name”. You can casually walk aroung in a store, ever so calm and happy and folks say “ Heh, I like your style” or youthful clerk may come up to you and ask to take a photo of you and your t shirt and thank you and then exclaim, “When I grow up, I want to be exactly like you!. Which was nice but I am not sure that I have actually grown up! Take something good from within and throw it out onto the canvas of your world and the day becomes a passage of time to “abide”.

Now one convenient way to travel is to do a road trip. The fleet vehicle of Ataboy Endeavours is a pre 2000 Eddie Bauer Ford Explorer. It is in a constant state of restoration but it allows me to play a huge library of tape cassettes and amuse the passers by in parking lots. For example, one of the sticker on the back window says “Life is like a corn dog, do not ask me why”. So I don’t but folks with cell phones are prone to smile and ask me if they can take a photo.

Another favourite talisman is this t-shirt.
dude t shirt twoI love this t-shirt and it’s humorous intent.

I bought it on a magical “dude abides” trip to San Francisco. For several days, I was lucky enough to share some truly great quality time with an amazing woman who honestly appreciated “the dude”. Now a year later and a different time and space, I take a break to ponder three constants: paradox, change and humour. While there is always the challenge and the delicate dance of one’s own “transformation”. When I put on this t shirt there is the potential to create a private and public joy. I bet I could even make the stoic Leonardo Da Vinci radiate a tiny and cryptic Mona Lisa grin!

Jimmy has said “that there is a fine line between Saturday evening and Sunday morning“, and my fitful Saturday night of dreams had left me staring at the ceiling. My pal Chuck had said, “each morning pick something to do and do that thing right”. What I really wanted to do right was to regain my happy state of mind. Now Ataboy” is a four by four and built for rocky roads, so while I mindfully defused some mental land minds, the big shocks can take the edge off some of life’s speed bumps and the tape cassette can play tunes that took me back into times when I truly ruled the world from a pay phone. So on the spur of the moment I polished off breakfast, cleaned up the kitchen, put the key in the ignition and headed south to end my day with some nonlinear events. I did have a “plan” yet I could easily be influenced by the sighting of masts or nearby trails to go off on an uncharted adventure.

Yes, it is a challenge but you can initiate change. You can cut you hair, shave your beard and lose thirty-five pounds and change your pant size by five inches in two months but the busy work of “transformation” is no walk in the park. It takes more than a t-shirt, a bumper sticker and yes, even a complete new style to transform you true self into some one that you can be authentically be happy with. You have to reach deep inside and throw out a lot of junk from within. Mother Teresa said “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. While I can wax poetic about the influences of love on my life, there is one thing that I truly to love and it is having my hands on a wheel and my world in motion.

My recent walks in the woods had convinced me that the muddy Nikes needed to be replaced with a more conventional hiking boot. Fortunately, there was a sale at REI and a thorough and zealous phone clerk name Tracy actually found my card number. The winds of change were in my favour and so I launched out of Vancouver with intents of finding three things, a pair of boots, a trail to hike on and a great deal on a wet suit for paddling boarding. I loaded up several tapes, a favored “man bag” and forgot several items that I would need later…including a flashlight.

Waiting at the border was spent listening to a recorded studio set of Jimmy Buffet in Sausalito. With the tape cassette engaged I went back into time when I “used to rule my world from a pay phone” and I lived by another name. I will keep that incognito to protect those who used to ramble in my world. Happiness was just thirty-five minutes away to the border crossing and I was loving the music. I was singing along with Jimmy Buffet’s song, the Wino and I know and slowly getting to the American border.
“And the Wino and I know the joys of the ocean,
like a boy knows the joys of his milk shake in motion.
It’s a strange situation, a wild occupation, living my life like a song.”

One of the bonuses of solo travel is that you can pick your own music and sing as loud and as off key as you want to. You can creatively fill your own time with odd efforts that some folks would call a waste of time, like waiting in customs lines. I looked at my watch and gave a nod to Einstein. Yes, time was relative. There was no way I was going to speed up this line, so me and my truck would slowly just move on and so would life. By three pm, I was heading south and it was time to change the cassette!

By the time I reached REI, I had listened to a mysterious tape cassette twice and on both sides. I was wondering what hands of fate had allowed it to fall into my cassette bag. Judging by the lyrics, there was no end of trouble that could occur when a man meets a woman and then that woman has let him go. From Nashville to Alabama, from Texas to Tennessee, it seems that even Darwin would be in awe of the multitude of mutations that could be permeated within the lyrics of country love song. Tear ducts could finally run dry and father time can became the only family you could have. With a happy honky tonk ditty, twanging lyrics told the tales of men having their hearts slowly being ripped from their chests. Now I am not stranger to pain nor am I immune to tales of things gone bad. In fact my whole life in the last few months had done more flip-flops than the whole inventory at REI and they were on sale! By the time I locked the doors and smiled at a few dogs in a nearby car, I had all the vital motivation and mental ingredients to attempt a weeklong drunk, buy a Collin Archer double ender sailboat in Bellingham and sail off the little latitudes. Don’t laugh, the seed of a private dream was already making roots in some quiet place in my brain. That ol honky tonk mirrored my own situation in way to many ways. So I turned to my truck, let another person take a photo of the bumper sticker and privately saluted the “she was the one” dialog in my head. I was thankfully I was drinking water instead of Margaritas. Going a rapid ninety clicks down memory lane, I had a shit-eating grin that could fool any hopeless romantic. “She” wasn’t going to leave my head soon. Nope, her smile of approval at my “dude shirt” was not going to be uprooted by other smile. The dudette abides. While life had throw in a few too many gutter balls, I was striking a few pins and my weight and mental heaviness was disappearing each day. If I was flying by the seat of my pants, at least my pant size was shrinking.

I have learned that if you throw out a fun and caring attitude to the world, the world does abide. You see things other would not, like the kid checking his runners on the rock testing stand or the elderly couple that has been together so long that they float in a separate world of their own, complete with knowing smiles and compassionate remarks. “Oh yes dear, that hat does look good on you”, but then you see her turn her head and smile. The charge card come out and Daddy can buy new stuff even though he thinks his feet are too small. Thankfully the t-shirt was working it’s magic. I was a renaissance man in REI. I walked alone with the calm of the dude. I waited in line and watched the couples interact. I listened to conversations and watched body language. I practiced the art of the seer and let my breath take control. I attempted to let go of my judgments and smiled. Sure the couple in front of me amused me for some odd reasons. He was trying hard to please her and her head was on a swivel seeing who was admiring her as she quietly kept tabs on him. That judgment went poof as I noticed a liquid version of some nutrient bar. Thankfully the ADD was keeping me sane.

Finding my way to kite and board store  took me through the shoreline of Bellingham. Each time I asked direction, I praised the fact that I had no GPS. Folks were just naturally friendly here. I met a young couple intending to live on a boat in Victoria. I offered sage advice “yup with anything nautical, it is slow to get into trouble and slow to get out”. I interrupted a  paint stained Mom scrubbing the hull of a boat with her child, and she gave me a play by play mental map including strategic building along the way. No North or South, but a visual map that made me grin. Then there was the lovely jogger who had a smile that could light up even the cloudiest days. At 6:30 I made it to the board store where I met a DJ who was just in the process of opening the door. The store was supposed to close at 7! Again, with a smile and a positive message on the t-shirt, I was able to get more gear for my budding interest in paddle boarding. By seven I was misplaced some where south of Fairview, a town I had never know existed. I asked direction from a fellow cutting the culvert with a weed whacker. “You go to the lights, the only set of lights, then go left, no matter what..keep going left”. I had to remind my self that marijuana was now legal in Washington and if any off the replies seemed a little left of center, well then they were. Yup the dude did abide.

I am not sure what squirrelly behavior inspires a municipality to name a road “Chuckanut drive” but by the time I got to the Larrabee State Park ranger station, I was tempting the Gods when it came to admiring a sunset. Yet I was inspired and urge to commune with thoughts and footstep on dirt was pulling me into the undergrowth. I wanted to watch the sunset and take in a little hike. With the advent of my daily exercise. I was becoming an endorphin junky. I needed to move. I parked at the ranger station and got some quick direction from yet another mellow couple. The lovely lady madly dashed off to the toilet but came back yelling at me “.you better hussle, the sun is going down. Take the road up the hill. You have at least three mile to cover and it is all up hill. The first step is always the hardest. Hadn’t I heard that in that country western tape. “I have cried my last tear drop for you” yet by the time I reached the 2.1 mile post, I was drenched with sweat. To motivate my pace, I attempted to calculate the number of my footstep as being equal to the probability of me relighting a past love. My ratio of was about a million to one and the odds of me catching a sunset were rapidly quickly fading.

The shadows were getting longer when I noticed a woman looking for a geocaching box in a nearby tree. I asked her which way could I go to see a sunset. She point down the hill and said “there is a look out down there”. I launched down the hill at a rate that surprised me. This woman, who started to ask me if I know about geocaching, quickly followed me. I had heard the term but she also mentioned some thing about her brain. Perhaps it was dehydration but I was having a hard time linking brain ailments with geological terms. My first thought was crystals, which made be me start to wonder about pixies and other forest animals. The woman then mentioned cougars and the possibility of meeting one. I wondered if this was a pun and set off for the outlook. To the right, I noticed a new trailhead and a total of .2 miles to race for a picture. My geocaching hiker continued down the trail as I scooted into the woods.

I made it for a view!

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Yet the real new discovery was my geocaching hiker who I discovered was named Sue. I was coming off the mountain at a slow rate. I could see Sue’s flashlight and she was still tromping through the woods looking for yellow boxes. Armed with a GPS and a no hold bared attitude, she crawled up to trees above the actual trail. In the short time that I shared with Sue, I got to know a hero worthy of mention. While I was pumped about losing weight and managing to navigate the waters of post romantic bliss. Sue was pulling off a fantastic healing process that had taken her from being a high-level white water guide to an invalid in an electric chair and now she was climbing through the bush looking for little yellow boxes. As I shared the dome of light from her flashlight, she quietly told me her tales of once been a rafting guide, a microbiologist and was now off to work on charter boats in San Francisco. The amazing thing was, not too long ago, a virus had taken up house in her brain and put her into a spirally downward loop of pills and doctors. She had healed her self with a will to navigate white water and the scientific openness to explore alternate curse.

By the time I reached the border in was now past midnight. I told the customs lady about my random urge to hike and she shared her own story about doing an adjacent trail called the Oyster Dome.

Now you may ask why tell this tale and I can easily answer. Dreamers like me and Sue scare folks. We have the will and the desire to question what is the norm. While folks may say that there is not a “hope in hell”, there is the choice to question what put most folks into their own private hell. Perhaps letting go of expectations and assumptions set one free to accept a random urge to spontaneously hit the highway and spend an anonymous day of abiding. After panting up a hill, there are those few deep breaths to celebrate a spark of hope. I can sift through my memories and find joy. I can live my life like any song I want to and I am not afraid to sing along. I can even dig down into my own soul and find whims and ways that have a probability of a million to one of occurring.

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Semper Doggy

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I am a “Dogfather”. It is a common error with folks with dyslexia.  My charge is a noble black beast named after fierce competitor Mia Hamm. It seems that Mia does not play well with others. Like her namesake, she keeps her mind on the mission. Then again, how many of us put on our better self all the time. Who is to say what is the better self any way? There seems to be expectations put upon dogs that some dogs just do not want to buy into. For example, Mia is fiercely loyal. I appreciated that trait. If Mia were a member of the armed forces, she would be a Marine. Standing by my side, I feared no evil for I had Uncle Sam’s misguided canine.

So in an effort for some mutual attitude adjustment, I took Mia out for a hike on a trail that runs out from Mt Seymour in North Vancouver. The trail is called “Dog Mountain”. Mia and I arrived at Mt Seymour with little hope of seeing anything. A fog had capped the summit and tourist were disappointed that Mother Nature had once again pulled some form of moisture from her bag of trick. After finding the parking lot and applauding crazed cyclist that were pedaling up to this ski resort, I started asking folks which way the trail was and was thankfully given direction by a great guy who had inherited two rescue dogs. He had referred to his hound as “Mutts” but I looked at the two pups and said, “These are not mutts. They are universal dogs. This is what you would get from a great combination of most of the dogs on the planet!” One hound amazed his owner and licked my hand. A dog knows when it is appreciated even though it has been labeled as shy and abused. The man’s wife, who was distinctly pregnant, seemed to like that. No longer “Mutts” but an elite hybrid..the universal dog. Gold and shorthaired, with strong legs and a lean body of a cross between a grey hound and a golden Labrador , with happy floppy ears and a curled up tail, yes these dogs were the product and a fast and frisky mating. As heart warming as this little interaction was, Mia was not going to be part of this love feast. She looked out the window of my truck and startled to snarl.

So with leash, walking stick (possibly to fend off that one crazed Doberman) the mission was a foot. In local hiking guidebooks and a North shore website, the Dog Mountain trail is rated as an “easy” trail. There are some side comments about the possible challenges of mud on exposed roots. With this in mind, Mia and I marched into the woods, our shoes and paws crunching gravel with a solid cadence and a simple intent to set off and test our social skills.

Prior to this hike, I only wanted to rediscover a joy of my own youth. As a moody thirteen-year-old New England, I was lucky enough to be taken under the wing of a scoutmaster who had just returned from Viet Nam. He was a Marine and some how the whole Kumbaya scout lore and merit badges got prioritized to focus on survival and a simple code of honour, courage and commitment. At the time, colour TVs were telecasting fresh footage from the rice patties and all my scout master wanted to do was make sure we would not become a statistic. So we hiked. Actually, we marched. We spent several weeks on the Appalachian Trail doing a fifty-mile hike that evolved into many more miles just for the sake of doing patrols. We learned to survive on dehydrated food and the stray bullfrogs that ended up on spears we made. For an imaginative and fit teenager, I thrived with the intense training. I also found the woods as a place of solitude to get away from the madness of being a teen.

My other mentors were my own hound “Mike” and a Irish setter, who we named “Red”. I was later to find out his name was Lancelot, which seemed gallant and Arthurian but the name did not match his goofy ways. Like Mia, my dog “Mike” was a natural fighter and loyal. Hiking with a hound in those days was less demanding. The dog bag was not yet invented and the leash was something you had just in case a pack of joggers or bicycles went by. Let’s be honest here, what dog can ignore a mass flock of moving objects? Be it a bunch of geese or a flock of sheep, the primal urges kick in. Dogs like to chase things, just like kids like to play. It is a way to create joy and it does not need to be muzzled nor drugged into stoic silence. So it was, that a mindful Marine and malicious mutts oddly fostered my joy of hiking.

Well, Mia’s primal urges to protect instilled a new role for me. Gone were my previous intended meditative reflections, I was loud and proud, “oorah!”. I was like a knight’s errant shouting into the crowd. “Behold the brave knight Mia, please put your dogs on a leash!”. “Move aside maggots”, there is no time for mental hamburger, remember “Heartbreak Ridge” and get your arses up this mountain. At one point in our journey, a German Sheppard made a lunge on Mia. Instincts kicked in and I fell to the mud to cover Mia from the attack as if a hand grenade had just come rolling down the hill. Covered in mud, I wrestled with Mia to protect her from locking jaws with this beast. Notes to self, this was a breed to remember. There was definitely no happy wagging of tails nor polite sniffing of hindquarters. Marines have a selective memory and so do dogs.

I must confess that Mia was quite patient with me. We went over narrow logs and she just looked at me and jumped off and traveled through the mud. Like I said, she is a Marine. We scrambled up inclines of vines after I announced to the woods that any stay dog should be on a leash. Several hounds passed by. Owners looked at me like I was crazed. Some applauded my intents to domesticate an obviously aggressive dog. There were several hesitant looks and smug stares that seemed to say “How dare you bring that uncivilized hound into our humble environs”. I began to understand Mia’s reluctance to become that calm dog on the leash.

I wondered what would happen to these folks if some stray bear or cougar came wandering down the hill. Then what? I could hear Jack in my head..”you want the truth! You cannot handle the truth! Secretly you want us on this trail. You want us because we can guard you against those wild thing you fear? Yes.. you.. in your luluman yoga pants and fricking Birkenstocks. Where the hell did you think you were going this morning? Thought you were off for a quick latte and a pop into the mall? Half awake and buried deep down in your designer clothes filled, custom made, Cherry wood multilevel Bauhaus closets, you hide and cower each morning at the fear of being uncoordinated and not politically correct. Truth, you cannot handle the truth!”. With a paw to the left and a walking stick to the right, Mia and I quietly (with an occasional snarl) pasted the oddly adorned “hikers” and soldiered on through the now thicken mud and slippery vines.

So Mia and I were both now on a mission to “improvise, adapt, and over come” this whole North Shore hiking thing with a happy tune in our heads. With each meeting of muzzle to muzzle encounters, I looked at Mia and said..”you are getting better” and like wise as I manage to quicken up my pace and climb up woody inclines, Mia looked at me like a Drill Instructor and gave my a modicum of hope that I would actually get out of these woods without teeth marks in my arms or a broken ankle.

Together, man and hound, we traveled along the contours to a final point where an amazing view of Vancouver was promised and then we humped back to the truck. There wasn’t one dogfight and Mia managed not to snarl at three dogs. Due to the fog, we saw less than more. What we did see were many dogs and owners out on the trail enjoying a day away from the city. I learned that I could head off onto any trail no matter the level and that I always had a back up if there were reports of cougars or bears. I was gaining more confidence and the simple act of walking in the woods was now a source of physical and mental challenges. Though I questioned my own intents and many folks empathized and supported my training of Mia’s “aggressive behavior”. I just grinned and realized that I would rather walk four miles in a Marine’s paws than listen to some hipster’s meaning of life conversations. I was here to let go..to “improvise, adapt and overcome” all the excuses I had used for too long. Oddly enough, I was on a jarhead path toward finding peace within the stillness of these fog coated woods.

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