Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Take a trip, any trip. Make it long, make it short. Go to the same old place, see something new. Go alone, or go with a partner or a group. It doesn't matter. At the end, if all goes well, you will experience the simple joy of coming home. You will return.

Returning has always had historical and even mythological implications in our culture and lore. The heroe returns from his journey or quest. Macarthur said, "I shall return." Loved ones send us off with "Come back safe" or "Hurry home." We wait for the hunter to return to the village with evidence that we will survive a little longer.

No matter what wonders we see or how mundane an outing, it is not complete (to state the obvious) until it is over (or, the Fat Lady sings). No matter how strong the wander lust, there is something in our bones that eventually yearns to return to the start, to go home.

Even our Sunday morning paddles of only a few hours generally end with a gathering for coffee or breakfast where there is closure and a sense of having come through it all together. And when I paddle alone, there is something comforting about coming back and going ashore. Why might this be?

Kayaking, along with Judo, bicycling, rock climbing and a host of other "individual" sports are risk-taking activities. Unlike ping pong, tennis or bowling, one does not need (or even aspire) to win or beat an opponent to feel sucessful. In risk-taking sports it is the danger, itself, that is to be challenged and "beaten". Yet, we know that we can only win temporatily, because we may not be so lucky tomorrow or the next time we venture out. For the very next time we slide onto the water we will immediately place ourselves at risk...again...and the environment will get another crack at us.

Coming home or returning, then, is a small token of a small success. It is the signal for that good feeling to arise and tell us that, at least once more, we were ready, careful, smart or lucky enough to test ourselves against the risk and to have survived.

It doesn't matter how pretty it is, it only matters that we get back to the shore and come off the water at least one more time. As it was said in the Air Force, any landing from which you walk away is a good landing.


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