A Mother’s Day Gift

For Mother’s Day Shelby gave me an afternoon whitewater trip down the Cross River. She knows me well: an adventure that we’ve never done, that scared us both a little bit: perfect!

She’s been yearning to follow the rapids around the corner to where she can’t see them. With a map we planned a strategy, identified bail-out points, shuttled a couple of bikes around. Though this route was a mystery to us, I could easily have called Bob Baker, a neighbor-in-the-know. I had some vague recollection of hearing of “pretty good rapids” in there somewhere between us and Gunflint Lake. But—we wanted to venture into the unknown. So, we chose to be original explorers. Yikes!

I’ve had a little experience. I remember the Wisconsin Brule, with Class-Something rapids. Yep, just enough whitewater info to make me dangerous.

It was beautiful on the river. Our collective adrenaline was pumping, the water was high, we were a team. We’d zip along, find a place to catch our breath, rest, pull over a log, laugh. We were learning handy techniques. It was great.

I watched her and I reflected on this whole motherhood adventure. I’m a fourteen year veteran, but sometimes it still feels like I’m following rapids around the corner to where I can’t see them. I’m wise enough to realize that our children aren’t an extension of us, they are entirely themselves. As she navigated the rapids, I thought about what a good sense she has about her, physically and mentally. I fully trust her in my canoe. She’s adventuresome and funny. I suppose it is maternal instinct that I have always loved her, but the lucky thing is that I also really LIKE her. I remember when I was pregnant, wondering what happened if you were stuck with a kid you didn’t like? Does that happen often? It occurred to me parenting would be a long haul, if you didn’t actual enjoy hanging out with your offspring.

We left Round Lake Road, we crossed under the Gunflint Trail at Warrens Road, then past Dude Man campsite, and then calm waters. Still moving fast, but it was quiet. Wonderful. We saw a bunch of water birds we didn’t recognize. Then we came around the bend, heard loud water, and saw a big cliff next to some really fast water, some big rocks, and big drops. Bob Baker would have warned us about this, I’m sure it was Class Something-dicey. Could we do it? We got out to investigate. I’ll bet we could have. There were ways, ….yet we agreed that it was not a good bet. Since we didn’t know exactly how far into the woods we were. The whole safety-factor, the whole- be-smart-about-life idea. The whole…helmets-would-also-be-nice-part.

I had a flash image of the Fire and Rescue pager on my desk, and I so didn’t want to be the subject of one of those. So we hauled the big green boat, lined the rapids. We learned how easily it could get hung up and fill with water, we stepped in a little over our rubber boots. As we tugged and struggled, we also felt the enormous force of that much water. We learned that it was futile to fight that force, but it was fine to work with it, as long as we kept our eyes on the rocks and guided the canoe. Pretty awesome life lessons, if we take the time to think about them.

Eventually, we decided, that we could handle the rapids ahead. All was good, we were flying, one organism, problem solving, strong and on top of the current (and the big rocks were behind us anyway). Splendid!

Then…around the bend, and ….darn that last windfall. I thought we could make it under the log if we hung left. Shelby thought we should pull over to the right. Oops, there went our synergy.

Next thing I knew, we’re snagged half way under. I was trying to keep the wedged canoe straight with the current, and Shelby a ways away, had her chin above the log, and most of her body in the current, struggling to hang on. She was hollering AHHHHHH! And I was telling her she looked just like Laura Ingalls Wilder, hanging onto the bridge in Plum Creek. As my niece would say…”kinda scarwey”

Then I was telling her—“Shelby, if the hollering hhelped, I’d say—go ahead and do that, but we really have to get this canoe out from under this log. Want to get in?” The truth was, I felt a little forlorn too. But what were we going to do? So we pulled ourselves together, and were oh-so-close to getting that boat under the log and on our way down the current. As we slipped free, we just had too much water in the boat, and pretty soon I was floating with the up-side-down boat, Shelby was making her way through the current without her boots. Seemed like we bounced around for a long way, or maybe not. But eventually, we did manage to empty out the canoe. Though she didn’t want to get in the boat I had to say…REMEMBER, WE ARE STRONG PADDLERS. COMPETENT PEOPLE. And she said “Oh yeah.” And then quietly, “But I don’t have a paddle anymore.”

Two more bends, and we reached our destination –Gunflint Lake, and a bike, and still sunshine. We were a little banged up, sore today, but just fine. We probably learned more BECAUSE we tipped, and we certainly have a healthy respect for the power of the river.

Still, it was a perfect gift. Andy also gets credit for sanctioning it. He knew that there was a good chance he’d be in there with me, after hours, retrieving a canoe. Shelby had to laugh at the grimace on his face when he looked at our soaking wet selves and asked…”So where’s the boat?”

And motherhood? This grand adventure is my finest gift. I’m grateful for the honor to navigate these waters. With kids that I like. Two for two. Those are great odds.

2 Responses

  1. Matt says:

    thanks so much for sharing your experiences. Northridge Middle School is getting prepared for our 16 hour bus trip up to see you folks in the middle of July and cant wait. Reading your Blog helps get me through. thank for your stories, they are great.
    -Matt Hahn

  2. Dennis says:

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