I spent a good bit of my afternoon at the canoe lake today. Some campers lovingly refer to as the “cake,” because I guess “canoe lake” was just too/two many syllables. I’ll confess that I’m biased from my own love of paddling, but I have a soft spot for the water sports at camp. The kayaks, the canoes, the duckies and SUPs. Putting on a life jacket and hopping into a plastic boat to maneuver around the lake, practice strokes, and splash your friends is in the DNA of the summer camp experience.
And beyond the tradition of learning the skills of paddling, the practice hits at deeper truth that can be learned by choosing to enter the water in a boat powered by your own skill and decision.
In a world where we are constantly in control of what video to watch or of the exact temperature to set our thermostat, getting in a boat is a beautiful reminder distinguishing between what we can control versus what we cannot. Today at the “cake” the campers could not make the wind go away. The kayakers could not change the shape of their boats to make them better at tracking in a straight line, the canoer in the stern could not decide precisely what the person in the bow was doing. So much was out of their control, and yet they paddled anyway. They could lean forward, engage their core and move their hips. They could use their paddle, two sided or one, and work within the somewhat hectic environment of a camp lake to move themselves, and their boat to the desired destination.
There’s that old adage, “just go with the flow,” and although I, as a type-A, planner and enneagram 3, need to hear that often, what I think is actually a more important skill is learning to “work with the flow.” While going with the flow is passive, working with the flow forces us to practice awareness and intentionality, choosing a path knowing that whatever decision we make is always affected by the water around us.
We don’t always want to go downriver, sometimes we need to ferry to the other side. Or we need to make our way up, eddy by eddy to offer help at the scene of a capsized boat. But no matter what we are doing, if we fail to keep in mind the flow of the river, the gust of the wind, or the ripples on the water, then we are setting ourselves up for frustration.
The wind was strong today. The girls learned experientially just how much wind a large plastic boat can catch. I watched as over the hour-long activity period they began to adjust their strokes and among laughter and cheers, they learned.
We’re already one week into this amazing June session. And when they leave Illahee in a few weeks, forces will continue to be at play in their lives. Pushing them in various directions: Some helpful, and some not. May they continue to keep their paddles in the water, leaning forward to whatever amazing opportunities and challenges lay ahead.