Archive for July, 2015


“Take it away!” The paddles splashed into the glassy water. They broke the sheen of the reflection of the clear sky. It was a perfect day with just enough breeze to cool the brow and just enough sunshine to warm our sun-deprived Canadian backs. The mighty Niagara Falls lay on the horizon. On certain days, when the conditions are just right, you can make out the mist from the crashing waters.  But today we are heading towards the city of Toronto.
The stroke sets the pace and I watch her carefully and keep her rhythm. We surge forward with each paddle change and as I slice the water I feel the resistance. The silhouette of the Toronto skyline beckons and my concentration wanes. I feel myself drifting off into ‘ the zone.’ The rhythm of the paddles and lapping of the water soothes even the most restless soul. My automated body pulls at the water and twists and releases. All too soon I am broken from my temporary retreat.
“Pull the paddle into your hip and keep your arm straight….. your back towards the water.”

The commodore brings me back to reality.
“Easy all!”
Down go our paddles and the effort of the last few strokes sustains the canoe while we catch our breath. The water laps up at the side of our outrigger and I enjoy the sound and its vastness that stretches across into the distance. It is one huge lake! There are days that I imagine I am floating out at sea and the familiar salty aroma convinces me that it is nearby.

Out paddling on Lake Ontario.

Out paddling on Lake Ontario.

The Ontario Lake might not be the vast ocean but it shares so many of the same qualities. It is just as unpredictable and on many occasions we have had to turn tail and head for the safety of the Sixteen Mile Creek.
The river is forgiving even in full flood. The high water gives us a different vantage point and we enjoy the added visibility of the local flora and fauna. In a previously unexplored waterway, we spot a pair of nesting swans. They flap their wings and swim towards their unwelcome guests. Unfortunately we appeared to have interrupted their afternoon nap. This pair have a notorious reputation and we decide not to test their agility skills.
I had to smile when I heard about this encounter. I was in South Africa on a short holiday at the time. As I drove the unfamiliar streets of Johannesburg, I was aware of my safety too but rather different  hazards faced me. My fellow outriggers were dodging dive-bombing swans!
We respectfully scoot around them and head back into the main stream. There we have had fortunate encounters with grey heron, red- tailed hawk, a variety of ducks, beaver and turtles…to name but a few. They appear to be unphased by the size and shape of our craft and go about their foraging with hardly a glance in our direction. While we float along we notice the evidence of the previous rains. Careful manoeuvres dodge the flotsam of tree stumps.

“Draw right.”

A perfect day.....

A perfect day…..

At a recent canoe outrigger competition I came across this Hawaiian blessing. Here is a part that spoke to me….

Our canoes are vehicles to teach us how to grow, remain strong, enjoy the blessings of land, sky and water and to rely on each other. 

“There’s nothing––absolutely nothing––half so much worth doing as messing about in boats.”

“There’s nothing––absolutely nothing––half so much worth doing as messing about in boats.” Kenneth Grahame



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You can call me queen bee…..

The bright face turned around in the queue at Starbucks. She smiled when she heard us discuss the prospect of our ‘grab and go’ breakfast. Changing her stance discreetly, she continued to examine our faces. I wondered what could possibly be of interest to her so early in the morning. I felt like I had egg on my face! Most of us were just trying to hold ourselves together before that first cup of coffee! The morning face had been slapped together haphazardly and all other faffing had been done in record time. We had a plane to catch and we still had to make it through the Seattle commuter traffic.

That familiar coffee aroma wafted through past us. Mmmm….. I could not wait to take my first sip of the delicious bean beverage. The intrigued onlooker darted another glance our way. Was it our South African accents? Did I have some remnant of our cuddles with the twins stuck to the front of my raincoat? I thought back to those two sleepy faces and their precious sweet baby smell. We were going to miss them but would keep a close watch through skype and rejoice in all their milestones.

Goodbye cuddles with Jack and Kate.

Goodbye cuddles with Jack and Kate.

The queue shortened and we placed our orders. In no time the frothy steaming cups were passed across the counter.

Two grande latté

At last, I made my way across to the service table to grab the cinnamon. In my mind this was the piece de resistance. Three shakes would suffice and I automatically continued my routine as if in my own kitchen.

How y’all doing?

I glanced up and there stood the friendly face of our gawker. Did I really need this now? All I wanted to do was to knock back my first cup and to be left to wake up properly.

The melodious southern twang continued to tumble out. The questions ensued and we gave answers between the first sips of our coffee. It turned out that she had been to South Africa and was drawn to us as it brought back so many happy memories. Her eyes sparkled as she recounted her trip up to Kenya too. Then she stopped, almost in mid-sentence and looked us in the eye.

Y’all look like Ken and Barbie!

There was much laughter. Those who were old enough to recall my favourite toy joined in. Maybe we could pass for Ken and Barbie’s grandparents!

What a delight our stranger was. She brought amusement and a feeling of rejuvenation.  On those mornings when we creak out of bed and dare to look in the mirror, I gently toss over my shoulder…..

“So how is my Ken doing this morning?”

Ken in his other role....

Ken in his other role….

Kate enjoys the sparkles that Barbie has to offer....

Kate enjoys the sparkles that Barbie has to offer….

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