The Real Thing

By: belasbrightideas

Oct 23 2012

Tags: , , , ,

Category: lifestyle, nature, travel, Uncategorized, whitewater rafting

4 Comments

Focal Length:4.31mm

How is it that a visceral memory of thirty years ago sustains itself so vividly in both the body and mind? Such is my experience of whitewater rafting – a rolling, jaunting, thrilling escapade down some of the wildest water that still exists in North America, albeit dam-controlled. Thirty years ago, it was the West Branch of the Penobscot River in Maine. Today it is the Deschutes River in Oregon, and I could hardly wait to get to the mainland from our home in Hawaii in order to experience this kind of water, once again. I love the ocean’s waves, but there is something about whitewater that captivates the imagination.

We don’t have to be on the river until a reasonable hour of the morning. Still, there’s frost on the ground as we don wetsuits and neoprene booties. Teeth chattering, I throw on my long sleeved rashguard for extra warmth. This in no way prepares me for the shock, however, as, on the second rapid, I am jettisoned from the boat, along with two others, into the icy drink. My god, I think, it’s early September! How is it even possible for water to get this cold, this quickly? The guide remarks that we are the only ones on the river, and even a week before, there were dozens of rafts with hundreds of occupants, waiting in the eddies for a turn in the roiling current.

Forgetting how flexible a twenty year-old body can be – certainly compared to an almost-sixty year-old physique – I lurch forward and knock my two front teeth into the back of my daughter’s head. No harm done, save for a fat lip for a few days – but I become wary, a feeling that is asynchronous to the memory I spoke of earlier. I wiggle and tug at the good front tooth that remains, after having an implant replace the other I lost to Hawaii’s unpredictable surf twenty years ago. My arm still aches and is oddly dysfunctional after being torqued out of alignment during my surprise tumble. I shift to the other side of the craft; paddle with the opposite arm. Still, I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to strip out the pain with my other skilled hand. Eventually I am successful, but again I am uncharacteristically cautious, as I turn to the guide and whisper, Hey – I don’t want to bum the others out, but if there’s any way to keep me in this boat for the duration, I would really appreciate it.

The remainder of the ride is enjoyable, mostly because those I love are having the time of their lives. Vicarious pleasure settles in, and it’s okay. I have discovered balance, once again. My delts and biceps hurt less, but I remain chilled to the bone. I launched into this journey with a nagging cough, and cannot imagine how shivering all day is going to make it better. Still, the view from the river is extraordinary, and the water itself possesses a magic that is impossible to describe.

 

4 comments on “The Real Thing”

  1. Bela, you are a brave lady for sure. I am glad the people you love enjoyed the journey with you. But honestly, I am afraid of this kind of adventure. So I can never think of trying something like this in future. 🙂
    But yes these picture suggests, the view from the river must be awesome. I think, that’s the best part of this kind of journey.

    • Yes! For me it’s been about both the beauty of being out in places not accessible by car (and a long trek on foot), but also the thrill of the experience. But as I grow older, my body seems to want/need more steadiness and less craziness(!). So I bicycle, hike and swim. And I watch others surf those enormous winter waves 😉 Cheers, Arindam!

  2. Beautiful, thank you for sharing your photos

  3. Thanks, RM! Just saw your comment now – over a month later!


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