What a canoe trip taught me about life.
Yesterday we went canoeing. It was a beautiful setting, a gentle two-hour paddle down the Dordogne past stunning cliffs, Chateaux and chocolate box villages, the weather was ideal and the kids were happy – it was a ‘perfect’ day. Libby and I in one canoe, Chris and Stanley in another, paddling away downstream. Then I caught myself. About a half an hour into the trip, I realised what I was doing – I was trying to ‘get there’. I was thinking about getting to the end, thinking about what was round the next bend in the river, and the next one and the next. I wasn’t ‘being here now’. It gave me a bit of a jolt because here I was, in the middle of a ‘perfect’ moment but not really experiencing it.
I stopped paddling. I let the canoe drift a little. I breathed. I savoured the moment
When we got back I thought about how I had being trying to ‘get there’ and it dawned on me that I do it all the time. I am always planning what’s next, what needs to be done, what needs to be achieved. Chris laughs at me because I wake up in the morning and say ‘Right then!’ as if the day has to be tackled rather than lived, what do we have to get through to ‘get there’. I’ve been doing it on this trip – planning where we go next, where is the next stop – and when we get there instead of relaxing I’m thinking ‘Ok we’re here now – where next?’. Always the next thing, never the now.
I went to the van, pulled out my duvet, lay it on the grass and lay down in the sunshine. Something I remember doing as a child and as a teenager, just lying down, listening to the birds or watching a beetle crawl up a blade of grass, just lying there, ‘being’ not ‘doing’. I’m not sure when I stopped ‘being’ – I think perhaps it was when I became a parent and there was always so much to do, or perhaps it was when I lost my mother and I kept busy, busy, busy – just to keep going, just to get through.
Whenever, whatever – it’s time to take some time.
Alan Watts once said that life is like a piece music – the point of a piece of music isn’t getting to the end of the tune, it’s the sound of the song, it’s the dance.
This is the time, the moment, what we are doing right here, right now. If we rush through it trying to get to the next thing, trying to reach the next goal, not feeling the moment then we miss out on so much, we miss the scenery, we miss the canoe trip, we miss our kids growing up, we miss life.
And so I shall try to remember to dance a little more … or at least to paddle a little slower.