Day 1444 – Day 1445
Last night, I drove a distance of about an hour but for various reasons, it took 3 hours. I was headed to a kayak race. I didn’t have a boat for the race; I was wait listed and I just remained hopeful.
Somehow, for a big city, the paddle community is really an amazingly tight one. The organizer put a call out to the paddlers from Squamish to the Fraser Valley and everyone brought their spare boats in to make sure that anyone who wanted to paddle was able to paddle. Fellow paddlers came through and I was allocated a loaner boat.
At several points in my hellish commute, I wondered if I should just get off the highway and call it a day. Siri navigated me away from highway 1 and further west to highway 99 where I sat for nearly an hour waiting to go through the tunnel. There was a football game happening in Vancouver and this, plus road construction, an accident and counterflow lane closures for the tunnel all led to a 3 hour drive. I didn’t think I’d make the race start and so I emailed the organizer to let him know. Please, I said, let someone else paddle tonight. He told me the boat was mine and it would be waiting for me no matter what time I arrived. These people are the best.
I arrived 13 minutes before the race start and after a desperate run to the restroom, I registered and ran to my boat. I got on the water – not at the start line but at least on the water – just as the horn blew.
The boat is a recreational boat – the kind that you buy when you are a beginner. I have a racing paddle. The combination of the two was really something challenging to navigate. After catching up to the rest of the moderate paddlers, I realized that I just was not going to be able to go at my regular pace, in this race. I considered not finishing. My bicep ached from paddling so hard. I considered just having a lovely little float and piddle paddle on such a gorgeous night. And then I paddled on.
Out there on the water, I had a talk with myself. I was not going to give up this race just because it was hard. My first priority was to stay out of the drink in the little boat that was tippy. My second priority was to finish the race. I just decided to have fun but not give up on giving it my best. I couldn’t see the red buoy that was our marker for the turn home but I just paddled on and trusted it was there. And, along the way, not worried about pushing past to a personal best time, I talked to my fellow paddlers. I made 5 new paddler friends last night.
After the race, the organizer gifted me a box of energy bars for outstanding dedication in getting to the race. I had to laugh. I’m sure I’ll be chewing on them in two weeks, when I may be sitting again in horrendous traffic to get to the final race of the season. What he doesn’t know is that no matter whether it took another hour or not, I would have been there – I’d have missed the whole race if it did take 4 hours, but I would have shown up – because people went out of their way for me, because people were generous to me, because this is a community that I love hanging out with, and because paddling – and more broadly – the ocean is what I love, most. I’m a robust girl and not who you’d normally expect to see in a tiny kayak with a racing paddle, trying to do her personal best. But this community has embraced me, no matter my size or my age or my ability. No matter where you come in the standings, we cheer one another on!
That is what community is all about.
I had a great race. I felt fantastic when I finished – 15 minutes later than my previous race time! Sometimes it isn’t about doing our personal best, but just about being the best person we can be, in the circumstances. By doing what we love and by being our best selves in doing it, we attract good people.
This weekend, I’ve got so many good opportunities for how to spend my time – I’m not complaining, in fact I’m grateful. But I’ve been in a bit of a quandary of what to do. There is a music festival in Bellingham that is legendary and involves camping and jamming with friends. It is, quite literally where all the ‘cool kids’ of the folk music world of Northwest Washington are hanging out. Cool in the folk community of the Pacific Northwest of the USA means those who play music from the 1850s to maybe as late as the 1920s and dress in a similar manner. This is not the case just 60 miles north, in Vancouver and I’m not sure I’m one of those Old Time people. But, this group of musician friends had become somewhat of a community to me as well. I’m not a very good string player as yet, and I prefer ragtime, blues and jazz to Old Time music, so I would do a disservice to their jam by getting my chords wrong. I’m a novice camper, too, having lived in New York and London for most of my adult life. I’ve not camped since I was a kid. And, I’m an introvert. I love hanging out with musicians and I love singing but at the end of the day, I want to retreat and be alone. I know it sounds like I don’t want to go. But I keep feeling that I should go. I want to support my friends who are playing and organizing the Jamboree, and I have FOMO.
I think we all experience that Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), but it’s really useful to examine whether we are, in fact, missing out.
This weekend, there is also the annual outsider arts festival, of which I am a part. And, there is the Vancouver Mural Festival, of which I’d like to be a part, next year. And as the summer is waning and there aren’t going to be many more days of good paddle weather, today and Sunday are going to be good days to paddle.
Whenever I can’t decide what to do, and I’m probably putting a lot of ‘shoulds’ on myself, I look at what it is that I AM actually doing. and where I put my energy. I take my lead from that. I’ve missed a couple of races this year: I was in London for one, I had a car accident on the way to one, and I had debilitating vertigo for one. Nothing else – no traffic jam, no tiredness, no weather event – has kept me from kayaking. It is what I love. And when I was in London, I could have gone to the best museums in the world. Instead, I spent my precious few days painting the walls in London. One afternoon, I stayed in the Nomadic Garden alone, after closing time, enjoying the quiet of the garden oasis while those who worked there went about their work and I painted a couple of walls. I do outsider art and wall art because I love it.
Both Saturday and Sunday, there will be Kirtan all day in Vancouver – that is a kind of singing and response that is very peaceful and joyful. I went every Friday night to Kirtan in New York City. My experience of Kirtan is what I try to recapture with singing and playing music. Kirtan is what I love.
I lived in England for over a decade. Outdoor music festivals are the bomb in the UK and Europe. I never went to Glastonbury. I only once went to a festival in Switzerland. I was 20 at the time, and I went to hear Nina Haagen play for a couple of hours. The concert ended and we all left – there was no camping in the rain and no late night shenanigans. The closest I could say I’ve been to an outdoor music festival since I was 30 is “Proms in the Park” ( if you know what that is, you’re laughing now). Proms in the Park is the final night of Proms at Royal Albert Hall where everyone who doesn’t have a ticket descends on Hyde Park and watches it on the big screen. One gets there early and sets out a picnic, waiting for the finale, to wave mini British flags, sing Jerusalem and Rule Britannia! on our picnic blankets with Pims or Bucks Fizz in our hands. At ten, when the finale is over, participants file out of the park in an orderly fashion, and head home on the underground. All very civilized.
I think the Jamboree is not for me. The idea of sleeping on the ground while jamming happens all around you till the wee hours, and having no privacy to speak of…well…it doesn’t suit me. When I go camping, I want to spend time being present and One with nature – something I often feel while kayaking. And when I put myself out there to play music, I do it with a specific intention and afterwards, I need to be able to recharge in quiet solitude.
I guess I’m not one of the cool kids of the folk world. And, I’m okay with that.
I’m grateful that at this point in my life, I’m beyond cool, now. I’ve got an amazing community of paddlers who are so kind to one another and I’m grateful to be able to spend time with them. I’m grateful for two art festivals that celebrate my kind of art this weekend. And I’m grateful for two days of Kirtan – the kind of experience that made me want to sing in the first place. Maybe I’ll drop down to the Jamboree on Saturday night for the evening concert and jams. And maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll use the time to recharge. And I’m okay with that. I’m grateful that those musicians that will attend, who are my friends, will still be my friends even if I don’t go. I’ll spend the weekend doing what I love.
I can’t think of anything more affirmatively heart opening than spending time doing what one loves. I hope you spend your time in the pursuit of what you love. And if they happen to be different things, I’m okay with that.
For what are you most grateful?