“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
― A.A. Milne
I am newly returned from the last of the Big Trips that were slated for what has been an amazing summer. My Hub, along with a few kayaking friends and myself went off grid and out of country last week to paddle a bit in Georgian Bay and to do some exploring and camping in the wilds of Franklin Island. This was to be my own very first ‘Expedition’ in the kayaking world where everything had to be planned and plotted, measured and made-to-fit. It was a big endeavor for me personally and I felt as if I was ‘hangin’ with the big kids’ as I am somewhat of a reluctant paddler.
We crossed into Canada where I opted to go offline to avoid the fees that come with staying connected in a foreign country. And with that unplugging came lots of time to wander around the dusty halls of my own mind, a pleasure I don’t often have the time for in my busy life.
After a long but safe and uneventful drive north, we arrived just in time to gulp down some fish and chips and a well deserved beer at Payne’s Marina where the staff took our late arrival not only in stride, but with quintessential Canadian kindness and welcoming.
We camped at a local provincial park and spent the next day or so readying for our adventure and monitoring the changeable water and skies of this place.
We arrived safely to Henrietta Point where I learned how to pitch a tent on and with stones, something I had never done before being more of an Appalachian forest creature in my upbringing.
This place was perfect from many perspectives. We had ample room for all of us to set up camp and there was an area somewhat out of the wind which allowed us to enjoy cooking together in our stony kitchen.
And there were the marvelous ‘Thunder Boxes’ (i.e. outdoor loos) which were not only not smelly for an outdoor loo, they put many indoor situations I’ve visited over the years to shame! I was pleasantly surprised.
During the day I followed the shady places as much as possible to sketch and explore.
And in the evenings, we would take our dinner plates to the windy shore and enjoy the sunset views which were stunning. The company was pretty great as well!
There was much hiking to do along the shore where we could sit and watch the water, or sketch new friends along the way….
While at Henrietta Point, I didn’t get back into my boat, and I might have been happy not to do so until it was time to leave for the mainland again at week’s end. Much of the time, I watched the others go about their watery business on the waves, secure in my desire to remain on shore. I am prone to sea sickness and don’t care for the waves they make in these inland seas, all confused and bouncing every which way.
This all being so, we’d heard the winds were slated to change, and that would mean our campsite would become a more exposed and less desirable place to be. We discussed as a group and opted to pack up camp and see what else Franklin Island might have to offer.
That day I joined our group and paddled the waves. All went well. I don’t mind the odd wavey day, provided said waves behave themselves, which they did. It was a long day in our boats exploring and scouting camp sites and we gratefully arrived at our new place at Cunningham Bay. No Thunder Box, but otherwise it was lovely.
Notice that our tent was there along the water, and that all was calm and glassy. We were in a protected bay away from the larger water to the west. But over night the wind turned on us once more and suddenly there were waves lapping at our door and the wind whipped the tent fabric into a frenzy. All in the middle of the night!
This all made for a very difficult night full of fear and anxiety on my part, the details of which I won’t go into. Suffice it to say, the following morning we picked up our little home and moved it into the woods on shore a bit further which felt safer in many ways.
When the more paddle-y folks opted for an epic day on the water the following morning, I stayed home on shore to enjoy some alone time and to try to come to an even keel of the soul in my own little ways….
Eventually, I spotted my friends on the horizon and they came home exhausted.
I whipped up some dinner which we all worked to fry up together. Everything tastes better by the water, don’t you think?
The very next day was already Friday, the day we were due back on the mainland. We had camped and paddled and cooked and swam in our birthday suits on a daily basis. We had prepared food together over camp stoves and enjoyed shooting stars and crackling fires in the evenings.
I for one spent a fair amount of time in a state of anxious agitation about whether I would have to paddle in sickening conditions, or whether the wind would blow so hard as to blow our tent down or whether our next camp site would have a thunder box or not. Truth be told, I spend a fair amount of time in my ‘regular day-to-day’ life in a state of anxious agitation and going on this trip was a way to try and temper that. (Perhaps every trip is a way to try and temper that!) Maybe if I behave the bravest, and test myself a bit along the way, I can get a little break from that day to day state. In some ways, I think it works. I think we must always be challenging ourselves.
Toward the end of the trip, my Hub Tony asked if I might take this sort of trip again. I was not ready to answer. Perhaps I am still not. We were so fortunate to have great weather and that our little group got along so well. ( I have heard horror stories from other trips.) I wanted to hold my own and I think I did, making wise choices as to when to be on the water and when not to be. And I am better for the going on this particular trek. For me, a homey, gentle soul, a lot about the idea of this adventure was daunting. And in many ways, I was very brave to attempt it. But I was also with friends whom I trusted not to put me in danger. The only real danger was in my head and maybe in my so easily queasy stomach.
And so, what of this ‘Behave the Bravest’ business, you ask? Well, while wandering the dusty hallways of my ever active mind while off the grid, I realized that I did not do a proper blog based announcement of my art work being featured on Nuala Kennedy’s gorgeous new album called, of course, Behave the Bravest. The themes in the album are epic and watery in the most folky ways and I am proud to be the visual part of it, my art work being made to look even more fantastic by the design team at 16K Design Works who did a fantastic job with the raw work. This album has been a soundtrack to my summer of sorts this year and many of the tunes were in my head as I navigated this recent expedition.
Difficult adventures cause us to look inward and confront our most shadowy sides of self….
And by plumbing those depths we can learn more about ourselves, enabling our best selves to come back to civilization and that version of reality to readily serve the world.
I am not quite back to my best self. I am still tired and sore, not feeling quite caught up. But I am better for my time and experiences amidst these inland seas. As always with a challenging time, I have learned something of myself and I am glad of it.