Features, Column

Vague Satisfaction and Peaceful Moments in a Canoe

This is a column about love. And by love, I mean vague satisfaction with an aquatic activity, not actual love. Because love is a lie, and the world is a cruel gaping pit of pain, loss, and gastrointestinal distress.

So I’ve been feeling extra cheery this past week.

Some of you may have noticed that if you saw me, I lacked my usual sad grimace and may have even looked practically chipper. I may also have been scratching the back of my head and frantically muttering, “The squirrels stole my pajamas,” but that’s a story for another column.

The reason for my unusually energetic and joyful mood was canoeing. In my young, but positively fascinating, life, I have found myself within the confines of a canoe three times. Once when I was in the third grade, once after sophomore year, and once this past October in my junior year.

And I think about it constantly.

Seriously, I might have some sort of canoe problem, akin to substance abuse. When I happen upon a large body of water, as I often do in my many wanderings, I picture canoeing across it and I can hear Johnny Flynn singing, “The water sustains me without even trying” in the back of my head. When I can’t sleep, I begin to think about large bodies of water, as one does, and quickly my mind is back inside a canoe. Even when I meet with my devoted fan club (The Archer Enthusiasts), I start thinking about slicing through a cold New England lake.

At the end of this school year, I will get the chance to canoe again in mystic, mysterious Maine. And then a week after that, I might get the chance to canoe in nippy, neighboring New Hampshire. It’s a freaking canoe extravaganza, people. Excitement is in the air.

In my attempts to explain this bizarre developing obsession of mine, I’ve turned to my history and found nothing. I don’t know how to swim, despite spending my elementary school years being forced to go to swim class every week at the local Y, with its elderly locker room nudity and floors guaranteed to cause a plantar wart or two. During those classes, I would hug the shallow end of the pool, and occasionally try to use the floating lane dividers as a way of pulling myself along instead of actually swimming. It was horrible and awful and I hated it.

But now, sitting in a flotation device above the water, I am the closest to happy I’ll probably ever be.

Cutting across a lake’s surface with the water-mover-stick (I’ve been told some people call it a paddle), changes everything for the minutes I’m out there. I honestly think you could stick me on a canoe with the most annoying, loud-mouthed person I know, and it would only make things marginally unpleasant. Such is the power of the canoe.

I wish there was a succinct explanation for any of this, so that I could easily apply the logic to the lives of my many devoted and loving readers and relate my experience to your own, but I have no damn idea. Something about nature, something about water, something about escape, something about talking to one person for an extended period of time, something about horizons, something about quiet. ????????. That previous sentence was just question marks, in order to emphasize my lack of answers. The best I can say is that I think these different factors manage to fuse together and play off each other to create a significant and important experience. But one factor, I believe, plays a more important role than any of them: scarcity.

If I lived on a lake, owned a canoe, and spent every afternoon drifting in the water, I probably would stop loving dumbass canoes so much. The fact that I only get to canoe on rare occasions in between long bouts of everyday life is what really makes it something exceptional.

Therein lies the only real information I have to pass on you (besides never using the word “therein,” which sounds stupid and pretentious). If you have something like canoeing, a personal experience or location or really anything that offers you a unique and borderline-perfect moment, don’t screw around with it constantly and ruin it. Let it be. Enjoy it when the time comes.

But who am I to give advice? I eat too much cheese and have an unhealthy obsession with a pointless form of nautical transportation.

And that’s it for now. This is my last column of the semester, but, barring the many horrible and unfortunate things that can happen in the span of three months, I’ll be back next semester to pen a few more of these little masterpieces. If you’re graduating, good luck, I’ll see you on the other side, and don’t forget about spending some time on the lake.

Featured Image by Zoe Fanning / Heights Editor

April 23, 2017