I remember taking several canoeing trips when I was younger and one in particular still provides me with life lessons to this day. As I recall, it was the summer of 1986, me and two other friends decided to take an all day canoe trip on the Little Vermilion River from one side of town to the other. We gathered together some supplies for our trip, along with the canoe, and had one of our parents drop us off at the southwest side of town near the damn. We launched just below the damn and started off on our trip. The plan was to have my friend’s mom pick us up at a predetermined time on the east side of town at a designated pick up point.
An all day river adventure for three 14 year old boys was something right out of one of Mark Twain’s novels. We certainly believed our expedition was going to turn out to be nothing short of amazing and I remember the exhilaration we all showed the entire trip. Not only did our canoeing adventure serve to be a great bonding ritual between adolescents, it provided some unique lessons that we can gain insight from today. As most of you know many small tributary rivers have switchbacks, varying water depths, and many impediments. On our trip that day we experienced times when we floated along without any problems, then there were moments when we had to get out and drag the canoe for a short distance because the water level was too low. We also came across fallen trees and branches in the river causing us to have to maneuver the canoe around those obstacles. These difficulties, however, did not deter us and we pushed forward without hesitation with our spirits still set on high.
At about midway through our journey we came to a spot in the river that must have been a nesting ground for several species of snakes. As we approached “ground zero” I remember looking at both sides of the river and seeing snakes everywhere. As we humans approached we must have alarmed the vermin because they were scattering down trees and slithering into the water. Of course, having all these snakes bail into the water certainly helped raise the pucker factor in all of us. We tried to stay calm, but low and behold we approached a dead tree limb protruding about halfway into the river. It is critical to note, there just happened to be one of the biggest snakes I had ever seen in the woods laying on the fallen tree limb we were fast approaching (Murphy’s Law). As you might imagine, we panicked and started screaming not knowing exactly what to do. The fight or flight instinct took over and we started violently paddling against the current doing everything we could to avoid that big ass snake! Fear overcame us and we did not act in our best interests; the exact details are sketchy in my mind but I think one of my friends jumped out of the canoe while I and my other buddy grabbed a tree limb and tried to avoid floating near the giant serpent of death (just a little embellishment). Eventually we realized there was no other way and allowed ourselves to float under the limb. Point being, we made it safely past the den of snakes and laughed about it on the other side.
Living life can be a lot like floating down a river in a canoe. Often there will be times when life is going good and nothing can get you down. However, there will certainly be many obstacles that will come your way and like the river obstacles you just have to keep pushing forward, do not be deterred, and keep your emotional well-being in check. The biggest lesson to be learned is the fear we encountered that day on the river. If we wouldn’t have succumbed to our fears we would have easily floated right past those snakes without any problems whatsoever. Instead, we lost control of our senses and attempted to row against the current while one of us left the boat altogether. When we encounter hardships in our lives we can’t allow fear to overcome us, consequently, making us go against the current of life. It may be hard to accept but sometimes you just have to let go and let the “river” carry you, unscathed, past what you accumulated so much anxiety over. Don’t let fear ruin your journey.