The ways of change

Posted by Ken Campbell February 25, 2013 1 Comment 1705 views
I’m not sure I’m a kayaker any more. I don’t know when it happened, but I can’t help but think that something has changed.
Don’t get me wrong… I still paddle. I still take my boat out into the spray and I still love the feel of a hurricane headwind or a quiet, backwater morning. What has changed isn’t what I do, as much as why I do it. 
I remember I used to go kayaking just to go kayaking, to get out on the water for no other reason than that. I’d practice my forward stroke until I felt like it was as efficient as I could make it. I’d do bow rudders and hanging draws until it felt like my boat and I were dancing together, weaving a measured and floating course across a watery dance floor. It was enough just to be out there, to be doing what I could to be a better paddler.
I don’t regret any of that; it was time well spent. In fact, I think all that kayaking dedication has allowed me to move on somewhat, to what I think is the next step in my paddling evolution. I value my kayak  and my paddle now in the same way that a builder values his level and his framing hammer. My boat is a tool. It allows me to go places I could not get to otherwise and to do things that have become more important to me than a simple paddling excursion. With the skills I built during that first long phase of my paddling life, I can now do things like paddle the coast and conduct marine debris surveys, look at the issue of plastic ingestion in remote bird colonies that would be difficult to access otherwise. I’m taking those earlier developments and molding them to fit a new system of values and priorities.
It’s a little like this: When I was 14, I was captivated by the notion of driving. I wanted to drive a car so badly and it didn’t seem fair that some law said I had to wait until I was 16 (2 more years, fer chrissakes!), to get a license. I don’t remember exactly how I did it, but I somehow snuck the key to the car down to the local Builders Emporium, and got a duplicate key cut for me, then put the original back on the ring before my parents noticed it was gone. Then, on evenings when they would leave to go out somewhere, I would take that old Ford Maverick through the streets of Goleta, California, just for the amazing freedom and joy that it brought me. I wouldn’t speed or do anything daft; I just wanted to drive. I wanted nothing more than the feeling of being able to control a 2-ton hunk of metal, to dance it down the road and bring it back again safely, before the folks got home.
There are a lot of lessons to be had from that story. I can’t help seeing, however, a similarity between the way I felt about driving then and how I feel about driving now and what I said earlier about kayaking. I don’t go driving just for pleasure any more. I don’t feel like a magician, maneuvering the car through the streets on a summer evening. I drive to get somewhere, to do something. My car is a device that allows me to get something else accomplished. I still drive, I still even like the feeling of freedom that comes with it; it’s just that it doesn’t captivate my imagination the way it did when I was 14. I have evolved.
It’s the same with kayaking.

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