Saturday, April 23, 2011

SheWrites Bloggers Ball

Welcome to the SheWrites Blogger Ball!

Here at my midlife I made the crazy decision that I wanted to be a writer, so I felt like I was starting from scratch trying to find my writing community.  I found random role models and teachers by following links online (hello French Word’s Kristin E) or taking some classes.  But then voilá I found the SheWrites online community of writers.  It was the difference between moving into a new neighborhood and trying to meet people one by one as they walked past your house and being invited to the huge block party and finding out you have something in common with each person there.

So I’d like to extend a big Thank You to Meg for offering an open invitation to her Blogger’s Ball.  And to some of the writers I’ve found, like Monica (who welcomed me quickly) who make me want to keep trying.  If you want to write and to commune with writers, this place is definitely one-stop shopping for poets, fiction writers, bloggers, everybody.  It will make you want to step up your game – and fast.

If you’re not a writer, keep working at whatever you love until you find a home for it.

If you're a SheWriter or just want to share a word about your newest passion, tell me about it here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

4 Lessons in Kayaking -- Paddling Through Midlife

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Pelicans nesting in the rookeries of Tarpon Bay off Sanibel Island, FL

This is the year that I’m finally going to learn to chill.  It started last fall when I talked Brad into a few days on Sanibel Island, FL to catch the last of the sun before winter wrapped its arms around us.  The island is home to the J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.  A first-time attempt to kayak was at the top of our vacation list (part of my resolution to try new things).

We rented a double kayak to head out to find and explore the mangrove forest and the bird rookeries.  I returned from this nautical adventure with multiple bug bites and 4 nuggets of wisdom that will help me paddle myself a little farther down the river of this midlife age.

Remember the bug juice
The south Florida shorelines are plagued by heavy blankets of no-see-ums that fly up your nose, in your ears, between your fingers and suck any miniscule point of your body not inoculated with a heavy dose of Deet.  It makes getting in and out of the kayak pure hell as you scramble to push out to the breezes of open water that keep the bugs at bay or race for any shelter built to exclude these pinprick-sized menaces.  I can’t avoid all the bug bites in life, but I can wear as much protection as possible.  That’s why I added Tai Chi class to my yoga routine.  And I’m trying to finally develop a sleep habit rather than making it an afterthought at the end of my day.

Paddle with equal strength
Our kayak continually veered off to the left or right.  With my bum right shoulder, my stroke was not as strong or deep as Brad’s.  He sat higher in the kayak than me.  We stroked at different tempos. We needed to master the rolling motion of the two-headed paddle.  All in all, we seemed to work twice as hard as everyone else on the Bay.  Finally, on our return trip we had it.  With an even tempo of “Left.  Right.  Two Rights. Left again.” we glided smoothly back to shore.  Note to self:  even after 25 years of marriage we still need to work on communication since we are paddling in the same boat.
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Brad and I heading out into open water of Tarpon Bay

Just float sometimes
The struggle to reach the mangroves had us intently focused on “stroke . . . stroke” and working hard to manage the direction of our kayak, even in the still waters of the forest. After a while the silence of the trees lay heavy on us and we realized that we had reached our destination.  It was time to enjoy it.  So we pulled our paddles in and listened to the lap of the water on the kayak, the muffled flap of bird wings when we drifted a little to close to shore and startled them, and the calls of the bullfrogs.  Yes, sometimes it’s good to just float.  There will be plenty of opportunities to work hard in open water.  I’ve pulled out my embroidery and placed it on a chair, always at the ready.  I’ve turned off the TV more and opened books again. I’ve let my dog decide the pace of our walks.  It’s a start.

If you fall out of the canoe, just stand up
When we first headed out into the Bay, the chest of this landlocked Midwesterner tightened as I saw the black water hug my kayak and I looked out toward the overpowering vastness of the Gulf of Mexico. At the entrance to the mangrove forest a sign greeted us with, “If your boat tips over just stand up.”  I wondered if that was some kayaking jargon inaccessible to us novices and prayed hard I’d never have need to know.

The next evening we took a sunset tour on Tarpon Bay.  About a mile into the kayak trip our guide pointed to a group of Great White Herons feeding in open water. It was only knee deep on them!   Because I could see such a distance across the Gulf and clear to Mexico it seemed, I assumed the water below my kayak stretched just as far down. The sign was now clear.  Don’t panic.  Things aren’t as bad as you think.  Just find your footing and stand up.  Then get back in your boat and move on.  So when I rent a car and drive across France alone again this summer I’ll just keep telling myself, “I’m only in up to my knees” when the GPS starts yelling at me in French.  And maybe this time I’ll ask for directions when I’m lost (read more about that adventure here).  But mostly I want to keep telling myself that on any given day trouble is never as deep as I think it is.

And finally . . .
Well, there is one more lesson I’ll tack on for good measure.  When I started writing this post the title said “5 Lessons in Kayaking.”  However, I couldn’t make one of the five lessons work.  I sat at the computer for a day trying to make sense out of that aggravating paragraph.  That’s when I realized it was easier to change the title than to fix the writing.  Lesson learned.

Cormorants coming home to roost for the night
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What have you learned that simplifies your life?  Give us the benefit of your experience in the comments section.

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