Once upon a time, in a far away land and situation, I drove a stick shift. It was a farm truck; a beast which demanded regular homage of elbow grease and libations of engine oil. But life, like water, has lapped about and moved itself and I am leagues away from that dusty, hay prickled bench seat.
I have become very curious about water travel in recent weeks. Before leaving Kansas City, I happily floated around in a dinghy Sail Boat over 4th of July weekend. Today I submitted 5 job applications and went kayaking. I have been kayaking once before, a few days ago, with a group. Today I was heading out alone for the first time.
I drove over to the Boat Stash and Joel offered to let me use his car to get the boat down to the water, as his vehicle has a roof rack. It was a stick shift. I hesitated. He said, “jump in, I’m gonna teach you real quick.”
Now again, a past time laps across my mind. I was 17 and in an empty parking lot behind the mall. Andy is trying to teach me to drive manual. I’m so nervous and I have such a huge crush on this boy that I can’t focus on doing anything. The car lurches to the beat of my heart.
“GAH WOMAN!” He yells, stomping on an imaginary break as I lunge the little red Toyota two door toward a lone light pole. We stall and don’t hit it. I start crying. The whole drive home I enviously watch him maneuver this system which had bested me.
Today I had another chace, and hesitation never gets you anywhere. I drove Joel around the hilly block and then we loaded the boat and off down the hill I go.
I dropped the long blue kayak into the dark waters and wedged myself into the seat. Last time I was in this boat, I thought it had a leak, as I had neglected to put the plug in the nose… Tentative and wobbly, I began to paddle out. I pass through a tinder drift and out and out. But not too far. I just kept wanting to see around the next bend. A big engine boat GRAVOOMed by and I listed happily on the fanning coat tails. Bobbing around out there I thought, “this is what being a duck must be like.”
I began to attempt some different paddling strokes but as yet, struggle greatly with keeping the boat going straight. But I am really good at going in circles. And drifting. Kayaking rapids will certainly be different and require a lot more supervision and experience. For now, I’m just excited to be on the water. It is so different from earth.
Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail I came to appreciate a certain unity, or maybe, flow, to things. The way I moved through the land, muscles contracting in a rhythm. While at the whim of the weathers, I dictated my own course. In the water it is different. there are winds and currents.
Surface breeze will cap the water and twist your nose even as you stroke. Three more good paddles and I’m spinning again. I’ve gotten good at corrective back strokes.
As I teeter about like this some muscly, suave, Water Pixie comes gliding in. Her strokes are precise and fluid. Her life jacket matches her well-trained boat. Somehow she gracefully levitates from having her kieshter below water level, to fully upright and hops out.
By the time I’ve trained myself into an eddy of floating trash I attempt to extract myself but after a moment begin to wonder whether I might need some butter, lard, or soap to get me out. Any pressure exerted on one side of the narrow vessel must be balanced against, otherwise I’m face down amidst beer cans, plastic bags, sticks, and small rocks.
The Grace of God is Great and I extract myself without incident. My boat is now at the furthest opposite end of the parking lot from the car. I can’t carry it that far, and the parking lot is full of old fishermen dudes and Water Pixie is still flitting about her truck, lashing the boat to it with magic, no doubt.
being who I am, I have to stop and talk to 3 or 4 people as I wander toward the car. Only after chatting did I realize I would now have to drive across the gravelly lot in front of all of them. I’m not gonna pretend I did it with any sort of finesse, but I also never pretended to know what I was doing in the first place. But I made it. And I am very proud of me for doing stuff I never have ever done before. It’s a good start to a much bigger plot I am developing.