“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

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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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