Finding life on the river

Ever since I returned from a week in Mexico last winter, a week when I ventured out on the water daily in a sea kayak, I’ve wanted to try kayaking here in Iowa. My interest peaked again earlier this year when I researched and wrote about Iowa’s water trails for The Iowan magazine. I even spent an hour looking at kayaks and talking with a sales person about the relative merits of various models. But things kept getting in the way.

Kayaking on the Des Moines River

My energy is focused on the novel I’m writing. There’s a garden to plant and harvest. Books to read for work and pleasure. Meetings to attend. Complicating my professed desire was the fact that I had no equipment – no kayak, no paddle, no personal flotation device. I talked a good story, but never got it done.

Fortunately, a paddling friend made it so easy I could not say no. She had an extra kayak and all the equipment I’d need. She came to pick me up after she got off work. We could put in and take out only a couple of miles from my house. Even easier since my husband would be our shuttle.

As soon as we were on the water, I remembered why I liked paddling so much. Bald eagles soared along tree tops. Great blue herons stood sentinel at the water’s edge. Swallows swooped to catch insects before returning to their nests lined up like tenements in the river banks. I was surrounded by nature. I was eye level with the wilderness of Iowa.

We ‘noodled’ along, as Robin calls it, paddling a stroke or two or simply letting the current carry us. Robin explained the merits of various types of kayaks and pointed out the dangers of snags. We shared stories of water adventures – her work with the River Rascals, a program she helped create to get inner city children out on the water – and my Outward Bound canoe expedition in the Boundary Waters. We stopped on a sand bar to stretch our legs, look at wildlife foot prints, admire the whorls created by water currents over the sand, and talk about life.

It took about two hours to noodle our way down the four-mile stretch. During that time, I didn’t think about the pressing deadline of my novel, or the produce running amok in the garden, or the books stack of manuscripts I must read before next week. I simply enjoyed the solitude of the river, the peace of nature, the company of a friend.

It’s so easy to let life get in the way of living. Now, I can’t believe I waited so long to get out on the water again.

Comments

  1. Carol, just reading that is like a breath of fresh air. Gotta get me a kayak!

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      It was one of our 100+ degree days, Ruby, but it was so relaxing. The kayak and a rudder I could work with my feet so I barely had to paddle at all. My friend had a small canoe, and I’m going to try one of those next time.

  2. Great photo, Carol. It looks like bliss.

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      Thanks, Mary. It was the right time of the day for photos. Sun low in the sky, everything cast in gold.

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