Today, I opted for a BlogHer prompt for my sixth day of #NaBloPoMo: What was your biggest fear as a child? Do you still have it today? If it went away, when did your feelings changes?
I guess it’s a good a time as any to explain a picture I posted last weekend on my instagram.
Before I get to the story behind why I am not keen on canoes, let me answer the question at hand. When I was a child, I had two major fears. One was a fear of heights – I have strong memories of crossing a bridge at Deception Pass (a lovely area in Washington) and having to walk in the middle of the road because I could not handle walking across on each of the sidewalks that lined the bridge. I tried hard to walk down those sidewalks, but a small peak over the railings and I nearly fainted.
The other fear was that of drowning and suffocating to death. Maybe I had a near-death drowning experience at some point in my childhood that may have caused the fear, but I don’t have a clear memory of anything like that. I just didn’t like the sensation of not being able to breathe or somehow being trapped underneath blankets, clothes, water and so on. I also did not like turtlenecks and tight scarves around my neck because of that.
I still have a fear of heights, although I think it has dissipated a little. I most definitely still have a fear of drowning and/or suffocating to death.
Many years ago, when Ninja and I were still considered to be newlyweds, we went on this amazing canoe-camping adventure in Maine. Several other newly married couples and us decided to embark on this exciting adventure together. We practiced our canoe strokes, studied up about bears, bought waterproof backpacks that could hold all our camping and sleeping gear, sealed the seams of our tents and became intimately familiar with EMS and REI. It was going to be one of those trips that was so epic, we would do it again with our kids. Doesn’t it sound FUN?
Well, somebody* on the trip told me that we would be doing a lot of paddling since the river was going to be pretty calm. Or did that somebody* say that there would be rapids here and there? My memory of that particular conversation seems to be a little hazy. I knew we would have to portage since there was going to be a small waterfall we could have to get by – that conversation I remember clearly. Setting all my anxieties aside, I boarded the van that would carry us to the starting point at the river. We got in our canoes with all our stuff – all doled out among the four canoes. The weather seemed to be on our side, but as soon as we got our canoes on the water, it started raining.
At this point, I was feeling nervous, but I tried to focus on the sheer beauty that surrounded us. As we continued paddling, we came upon rocks…and rapids. I knew this wasn’t going to end well. Maybe I put it in the universe, but this looked like the perfect place for a canoe to tip over. I remember shouting at Ninja as we tried to navigate the rapids and weave through the rocks. This was going to be a true test of our marriage – I could sense it and it wasn’t going too well. Then, all of the sudden, I was in the water. It was dark and my knees hit the rocks hard. My first thought was, “I can’t believe this is how I’m going to die – the worst way possible! I really don’t want to drown to death!” After my life started flashing before my eyes, I tried to lift the canoe up so that I could get out. Our backpacks with everything in it were clipped to the canoe rungs and made it difficult for me to lift the canoe. The rocks were so slippery, the water was rushing by so fast and all I remembered to do was to try to lay back so that my life vest could help me stay above water. I tried to lift the canoe again, but everything was going so fast and it was all so slippery. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get out.
Finally, somebody* was able to get the canoe off of me and I was able to float over to the side and then get back in our canoe. In the canoe flip, though, we lost our big jug of water. Did I mention that we forgot our water filter? Luckily, we had our floating coolers of alcohol to sustain us for the rest of the trip.
Everything Ninja and I had in our backpacks were wet. Our sleeping bags and our clothes were all wet despite being in wet bags that we thought would stay dry (apparently, if they are submerged in water, there is no guarantee that it will stay dry.). We borrowed our friend’s emergency foil blankets and tried to dry everything out when we got to our camp site. Too bad the weather was a bit drizzly. That first night, I cursed that somebody* and told Ninja that I just wanted to go back home.
After that, I was determined to get off of that river as fast as I could. Of course, the rest of our friends were not of the same mentality. During those few days that we canoed from camp site to camp site, I was extremely stressed and un-fun. As soon as I saw our end point, I felt this huge relief and nearly kissed the ground.
Since then, I do my best to avoid canoes. I’m still married to Ninja and I’m still friends with that somebody*. If you were to ask me about that trip now, though, I would tell you about all the other things that happened with much fondness. I would probably tell you that it was one of the best trips I had ever been on and that everyone should do a trip like that at least once in their lives. I may even tell you that I would do it again.
The truth is that it WAS an amazing trip. We saw eagles, moose, nature and got to canoe upstream towards Canada. We caught a fish in the river and tried to cook it and eat it – the way we did all that is another story in itself. Portaging our canoes was an adventure that we laugh heartily about – when it was happening we laughed and we definitely laugh about it now when we reflect back. I did something that I thought I could never be able to do and I survived. The best thing that I walked away with from that trip, though, was this great memory and story to tell. My childhood/grown up fear will always be wrapped in this fond memory. Maybe one of these days, I will be able to overcome that fear because of it.
*Somebody is not referring to Ninja. He is a good friend of ours that brought us into the rapids, but also helped to rescue me from it. We still love him like crazy and would still follow him on a canoe-camping trip any day.