It warmed up! It’s a balmy -14° C this evening (if you ignore the -25° C wind chill, and the drifting snow, and the storm warning, and the fact that for parts of the drive home I couldn’t make out the edges of the road.) It’s downright miserable out there. I’m glad to be home and not needing to go anywhere tonight, and I’m crossing my fingers in the hope that I will be able to get out of the parking lot to get to where I need to go in the morning.
And I’m thinking about canoes.
What, you are wondering, do canoes have to do with a blizzard?
Absolutely nothing, which is precisely the point. If I was sitting in a canoe right now it would mean that there was not a winter storm slowly imprisoning my car in its parking spot.
A couple of things have conspired to bring canoes to mind this evening.
I was sorting though some files of my long-ago writing, and I came across a piece I wrote when I was a teenager about canoeing in the rain. It’s not what you would call brilliant writing. OK I’ll be honest, it’s pretty terrible. I was going to quote some of it here, but thought better of it. Most of it is cringeworthy in an over-descriptive, trying-to-be-deep way. But it reminded me how much I love paddling in silence and observing things that you never see when you go crashing through the natural world in a motorized vehicle.
It also reminded me that my youngest daughter comes by her love of canoeing honestly.
Which is the other reason I’m thinking about canoes on this blizzardy January evening. Because camp registration always opens on the first Monday of January at 9:00 am. Last year I went to register her for camp on the Tuesday and she ended up on a waiting list for her preferred session. (Thankfully she did eventually get in.) So my job on Monday morning is to boogie down to the YMCA near my office, as close to 9:00 am as possible, application form in hand, so that she can spend July in the blissful freedom of paddling, portaging and pitching tents in the Northern Ontario wilderness.
I confess, I’m a big-time planner and scheduler. Before the snow is gone, I will have the whole summer mapped out. I am always baffled by people who can get halfway through July before committing to a vacation date. The way I see it, when you live in a place that treats you to -25° C wind chill and four-foot-high snow banks for several months of the year, you don’t leave the summer to chance.
Once in a while I think it would be nice to take a more spontaneous approach to holidays. At work today I heard a story today about someone who got a last-minute invitation to escape the cold by visiting a friend in Phoenix, so she paid a huge extra fee to get an “emergency” passport. Who even knew there was such a thing? On the other hand, a study by a group of Dutch researchers demonstrated that the biggest boost to happiness occurs during the time spent anticipating the vacation. So it’s possible my lack of spontaneity is actually making me happier than I would be if I was running about doing things on a whim!
Paradoxical as it may be, the truth is that there is a lot of summer recreation that my family is able to enjoy precisely because I have spent cold winter nights plotting and planning. It’s worth conjuring canoes on a cold winter night if it makes it possible to paddle them six months later.
The video linked to below was made over the summer of 2013 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the canoeing program that my daughter loves. The video makes it clear why she loves it! (And if you happen to know my daughter, you might just catch a glimpse of her in the video!)