River Milestones

It is an incredible day today - sunny and warm, climbing up into the seventies, so unusual for an early November day...

I drive into the park in the morning before going to teach and the river looks still and calm. I come back and launch myself at around 11:30 AM...

I have no intention of being out in the water for a long time, but I keep setting one goal after another for myself. Let me get to this spot. And now to that one...Before I know it, this has become an adventure and self test. How far can I go?

The rower I met the other day launches himself at the same time that I do and he quickly disappears - covering much more territory than I can or do. I wonder what it is like to row backwards and not see where you are going? It seems so odd to me...

I pass all my favorite spots and am intrigued by something white I see much further upstream. What is it? I have asked myself this question several times. Today I am determined to find out...

I paddle and paddle and feel myself tiring, but I have got to go find out what this white thing is that I see. Is it a building? Some kind of structure? If I don't get there - I will regret it. I want to know - and I refuse to give up!

I travel halfway up the second island - and finally go further than I ever have. I pass another crude looking boat launch area...I see a lone blue heron - but he does not look at me, so I paddle on...

I also see a largemouth bass pass me on my left. It too, ignores me, so I keep paddling on...

I pass one lone fisherman and exchange pleasantries - and still am determined to paddle on...I am so close...

I pass houses on my left and imagine what it would be like to literally live on the river - having it be the first thing I see every morning...

Finally, I approach this white thing on my left - which turns out to be a shelter of some sort, surrounded by a private boat ramp and several boats. As I come closer to take a look, I note that I see a clearing - and indeed, the "end" to the island on my right. Though I am tired, I summon the resolve to round that point and paddle down the wider portion of the Maryland side of the Potomac River...

But the currents are strong here - and I find myself on a channel of sorts - and the water barely an inch or so below me. It is very rocky and I push against the currents. I stop to catch my breath and in seconds lose all the ground I had worked so hard to attain...

I wonder if I should give up - but I remember Obama's mantra and say to myself: "Yes, I can!" I repeat this over and over, until I push myself around the corner with my new paddle practically scraping the riverbed...

"Yes, I can!"

I paddle away from the current using every last bit of energy and then rest in the middle of the river, my heart pounding, but my soul triumphant at having prevailed...

For a moment I look upstream, and note now close Lansdowne is to me, but I begin the journey back, which doesn't quite take as long, though I must stop and rest here and there - my biceps feeling pretty tired. I can feel my heart beating in my chest...

But the vistas are worth it - the clouds and trees reflected in the water, and I think of all the lessons and all the fears that I have confronted on this river...

I want to be back home but I know there is no way that I can rush things - I will get there when I get there...

I pass a kayaker who is at some distance from me - but we wave and greet. I see others off in the distance here and there as well...

I slowly make my way back noting that today was not a day for meditation - it was a day for laboring and working hard on this river - and then enjoying the fruits of this work. Once more, the river is a metaphor for my life. It is showing me the way - and the clearing and coming around the corner is not far behind...

I come in from the water and speak to a couple about to launch. They have not angled around the island as I did - but have contined on straight where the river narrows and eventually reaches a dam. They say it is beautiful there. I will have to explore it one day. But for today, I have accomplished much...

I bask in the awareness that new milestones were reached...

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