Writing from the Columbia River Basin

A Day on the Water

A Day on the Water

Sometimes it feels effortless to get out on the river, sometimes not and this weekend was a not. We're still learning this place and its seasons and after a full Saturday of lost trailer keys and boat ramp scouting (hey there, six-foot ice shelves) we finally launched midday on Sunday. 

No matter how hard it is to get there, however, on the water is Casey and I's best place. It doesn't matter if we've been bickering or if we haven't seen each other in weeks. It doesn't matter if we're both exhausted from work or if we've got the deep-winter blues. On the water... I don't have the words. It's just right. It's home. A lot of couples fight when they share a boat but a boat is where we both make the most sense.

I take the oars, he holds the gear rod his Grandpa gave him and we head down river.

As I drove out of service to the boat ramp, a comment ping-ed to my inbox calling me a "feminazi".  An acquaintance who wrote a piece about sexual harassment in the Idaho guiding industry recently said, "All the women I admire most have no doubt been called an "[insert derogatory adjective] feminist" and/or been told to die or otherwise get out. This confirms it: I'm on the right track." So I don't take it personally (I know I'm on the right track).  I don't think trolls deserve even the energy of anger.

But it does make me tired. Tired to know some paddling community has to deal with a person who at his core believes, "gays don't do extreme sports", tired because there are people's whose minds probably just won't ever bend. I'm tired because sometimes I find the words but mostly not. I'm tired because it's felt so unnecessarily hard to get on the water this weekend.

With winter freezing over the river, it's been a few months since I've been behind the oars. Even after over a decade, I'm always worried I'll forget how to row.

(But you don't forget what you love most).

I pull on the oars and guide us away from the ramp, letting the blades feather in and out of the steel-gray water. At the first run, I pull hard from my core against the current and into the seam of soft water along the shore. My arms start to scream and my stomach is tight but it feels so good to not think and just let my body be.

How many times have I channeled my frustration straight into oars, water, boat? How many times have I let my anger build then dilute and wash downstream?

And as I hold the boat in place I realize - this is why I do it. Writing about equality, writing about the hard things - it means bad names at least, death/rape threats at worst. But I want every girl to have the chance to hold oars in her hands. I want every girl to experience the bliss of letting her anger out through her muscles and into a boat. I want every girl to know how it feels to value your body for what it does (guide a giant aluminum boat down a river!) not how it looks.

Casey casts into the current and grins at me. I grin back. The dog peers over the gunnel and whines. The sun lights up a bare, brown hillside for a moment then is gone again. I'm tired, unsure, surrendered to the bullshit of life... and exactly where I need to be.




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