Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hatless Confidence

My favorite paddling experience, bar none, is when canoes fight neck and neck, in the thick of deciding who will dominate. How I love bumping and near-misses, pitching against the rhythm of competitors' breath. I cherish their call and response as if it were coming from my own canoe. Their blood pulses with determination that matches ours every time we bring it up another notch. Thrill drives collective effort, effort drives individual abandon, and then comes the Universe: splashing cold salt water lit in silver speed high enough to taste.

Or is it the triumph in the eyes of someone who finished what they were never before brave enough to start? Facing the morbid dread on race morning together, hauling canoes to the shore, rubbing the sunscreen in hard to reach places, finding that last piece of advice, we prepare one another somehow for a physical experience that will demand more than we have. The green flag lifts, we labor, we cross the finish freshly born. Stronger.

Or is it the dreams? People from all walks of life (even the venues where I am weakest) standing on the starting line, cheering. So many people I know rooting for me. I sleep while they applaud. I wake up with their excitement new in my mind.

Here's three cheers to Martha Isbister who paddled 12 miles at breakneck speed for the first time ever. Here's to Bonnie Stanger who brought her 20 year-old paddle down out of the attic for yet another marvelous chance.
Here's to Dan Seaton whose every faithful stroke I tried my best to echo! Here's to Jose Domenech who didn't make it and was sorely missed. Here's to Dave Halpern who said he would have to quit coaching if we beat him. Ooops. Here's to Butch and Mary Calivo for being the Mother and Father. Here's to Stanley and Teresa Otsubo who take care of the canoes 24/7. Here's to Uncle Ray for the chili, and Joyce for the sushi. And here's to EVERYBODY for the work and the love.

PS. Wouldn't it be nice to have photos of sunny Mukilteo?

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