Life in a Canoe

Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

The thought that nearly eight hours later we would be dragging a canoe through a swamp in the dark never crossed anyone’s mind as we began to film. Clad in American Revolution-era attire, my friends and I made a short crossing of the Town River in my yellow canoe as a scene for our video history project. Upon reaching the far side where my brother was filming, I told my friends Dan and Bobby that I thought we should go for a short ride downstream and then paddle back. At first, they questioned whether or not we were properly equipped for a trip, having snow shovels for paddles and no fully charged cell phones in case of an emergency, but we threw caution to the wind and decided that a short trip couldn’t hurt. After all, one must always be ready for an adventure.We drifted lazily down the river at first, talking about sports, girls, and school. We stopped several times to survey the land around us. The river was between high embankments and we could not see where we were without leaving the canoe and climbing the steep, muddy banks. Several times we found ourselves having to lift the canoe up and over fallen trees and other debris in the river to pass. Surmounting one such obstacle, we found an oar floating among the branches. We had taken a chance, leaving with snow shovels as paddles, but managed to find just the tool we needed to continue along the way. It seemed like a good omen.Shortly after finding the oar, I decided that I should call home and tell my dad that we would be home later than anticipated. My father is generally an understanding man, and was at this point mildly amused with our account of using the shovels at first and finding an oar along the way. I told him that my phone was low on batteries so I was going to turn it off and call him later to come pick us up, since we had traveled too far to paddle back upstream. Upon hearing this Bobby turned around on his improvised milk-crate seat and told me that since I did not know where we were, we should turn the canoe around and paddle back. I refused to admit that I was not sure where we were, insisting that I knew our exact location and that there was a great place to pull out downstream. It wasn’t until much later that I realized how much value a little humility would have been at that moment.I saw more of my own hometown in the hours that followed than I had seen in my entire life up until that day. It is amazing how much one can miss by taking the streets that everyone else takes, rather than finding one’s own way. We meandered through enormous swamps, deep channels, and small ponds that most people do not even know exist. In one afternoon my world became a lot bigger, as I realized that there are places all around us yet to be explored. A few more hours passed and we still had not reached the place at which I wanted to pull out. I turned my phone back on and was greeted by the tone indicating I had received voicemail messages. I listened to a procession of messages from my father with the tone changing exponentially from neutral to angry. The sun was setting, the battery of the phone was draining, the crew was getting tired, and the canoe was getting no closer to the end of its journey. We had not seen any signs of human life in a long time and were getting anxious. In the distance, across a swamp, through the trees we saw the pale orange glow of a streetlight. Pulling the canoe onto the edge of the river into the jungle of cattails we disembarked and began our march towards the light. The canoe seemed heavier than ever before as we lugged it through thorns, mud, and tall grass, but the sound of cars and a lawn mower reassured us that our epic adventure was almost at its end. We undoubtedly shocked the elderly man mowing his lawn at dusk, four Revolutionary soldiers emerging from the dark woods. The journey took only one afternoon but it inspired me to seek adventure whenever opportunity arises. An adventure can show you a new perspective of something you have seen every day, like I what saw of my own hometown, and can teach you the importance of values such as humility. I learned that sometimes you must make do with what you have and hope to find the tools you need along the way. These lessons are immediately applicable to my life. While at one time I questioned whether or not I was ready for college, now I realize that I’m as ready as I’ll ever be – and will surely discover within myself whatever I need to persevere. Fear and setbacks may come to the adventuresome, there is always hope glowing in the distance.  

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