I started my morning the other day going in circles.
I live on a lake now, and I have a paddleboat. I’m not big on exercise classes, not coordinated enough for zumba and not calm enough for yoga. But, I sure do like my paddleboat, and it helps me get the cardio workout I know I need.
I can set off in the morning about dawn, ride along the shoreline to the end of the cove and back, watch the fish jump, the ducks float by and the big blue heron swoop in for a landing on a nearby dock. As I paddle along, I’ll sometimes see a pair of chipmunks scurrying on the edge of a seawall, a bird chasing a squirrel up a tree or a hummingbird buzzing toward a feeder.
If I get up early enough and out there, I can see the sun beginning to peek over the trees, just like it was that morning last week.
It was my first ride of the season and I was excited to get out on the water. I had my life jacket and water bottle with me. I walked down the sidewalk, across the ramp and began to lower the lift. The vessel now in the water, I stepped down off the dock and onto the seat, then lowered myself in, untied the front and back ropes from the dock posts, and began to paddle backwards out of the dock.
The boat seemed to have a mind of its own, but then again, I thought, maybe I’d lost my magic touch over the winter. If I coaxed it along, it would straighten out, just like an errant child. I was sure of it.
As I pulled away from the dock and tried to go forward, no matter what I did with the steering handle, the boat turned to the right. I backed up, as it seemed it wasn’t quite so contrary when I did that. I went forward again, now beyond our swim platform and in between our dock and the neighbors. This wasn’t the ride I had in mind. No matter what I did with the handle, the boat circled the same direction.
Hmm, I thought. This just isn’t right. It reminded me of the time a few years ago when my sister and I went for a ride. No matter what we did that day, we kept going in circles. We’re both pretty confident people, so we always know when we’re right. That day, we both were right. I knew it was her fault. She knew it was mine.
Finally, tired of being in the middle of our scrap, the little boat straightened out and went where we commanded. Until last week, I was sure it was human error that caused those circles – trying too hard, turning too much, paddling too fast.
This time, there was no one to blame, so I began to think perhaps my little boat was ailing. I worked my way back into the dock. This took a lot of backing up and going forward, of course. Once inside the dock, I began to raise the lift, coaxed her onto it as she tried to come closer to the side and finally got her in place. I stepped on one of the lift’s crossbars and began to sink. I jumped back on the dock, closed the valve I’d left open and raised the lift, prodded the little boat into the middle once again.
When I finally got her where she needed to be, I saw what was wrong. The circles weren’t an act of contrariness at all, but instead an ailment waiting to be healed.
No wonder she couldn’t straighten out. Her rudder was stuck between her hulls.
This time I cautiously stepped onto the crossbar. When it held steady for me, I eased the rudder back and forth, up and down, and finally unwedged it. If I didn’t know better, I’d have though I heard my little boat sigh, “Whew…”
I lowered the lift, untied her, and backed her out once again. This time, when I tried to go straight, riding into the morning sun, she didn’t give me a bit of trouble. We turned left out of our small cove into the bigger one, paddled past a few docks, turned around and headed back to our own little corner of the lake. As we did, we passed the shiny concrete sea serpent on our neighbor’s point. I could have sworn he winked as we went by, glad to know that he’d have some company in the mornings now.
As for the paddleboat, she hasn’t given me any problems since that day. She just needed a little love, I guess.
And about my sister – I guess I need to circle around with her, figuratively, and let her know maybe neither of us was right that day. It probably wasn’t her fault or mine. The poor little boat must have been ailing that day, too, but when we didn’t give her the nurturing she needed, she healed herself – literally.
An apology might not be a bad idea either, don’t you think?
"Hey, sis, about that paddleboat ride..."
© Ann Tracy Mueller 2012