Written by Fidgit
We pushed a long day to put the Rio San Juan behind us. With the assistance of the Costa Rican border police, we left Nicaragua behind and took to the Rio Colorado and then the canals which led us to Tortugero.
Here we passed two days, catching up on recording audio dispatches, communications, social media, laundry, and washing the grime of the river off our boats and gear. Neon and I had some relationship laundry to do as well.
One of the challenges of having a third party with us was that we were not as free to communicate with one another. Richard’s presence made us aware of the constant and exhaustive work we do to maintain open communication between our two very different personalities and perspectives. Whether moving or sitting, we spend likely over an hour a day in a space of often uncomfortable intentionality and have worked hard to make it a safe place for both of us to express our truths.
We had subverted these practices to accommodate his discomfort, we used him as a neutral distraction to avoid the mounting dis-ease between ourselves, and I myself began to wonder whether the relationship was worth so much effort. Shouldn’t a relationship flow easily? Why did we dig so deep and rigorously?
I’ll tell you why.
Because that is what it takes to make it work. Our relationship is not perfect, nor is it easy. It does run deep. It is resilient, mutually affirming, often goofy, and is what has made this journey possible. So, we sat down to breakfast alone together and outed with our hurts and uncertainties. These conversations are always intimidating to engage with, scary to navigate, and leave me with an overwhelming sense of relief. We recognized patterns of our parents playing out, “sins of thy father” type stuff. It meant exposing some of my deepest vulnerabilities and fears. It meant tears and letting the darkness which has cloaked me be seen and naming it.
In Neon I have found a steadfast companion in the multiple facets of this undertaking. She is experienced in long travel, she is versed in emotional awareness, and she can honor the spiritual. Out of the gate, I would not have known to seek these things and it has taken years for us to build them. I could not be more grateful and honored.
The tourist town sits on a narrow strip of land between the canals and the Caribbean. Several times a day I wandered out to the beach to watch the sea. The water seemed tamer than when last we had met, though signs on the beach warned of rip tides. Richard taught us that rips can, in fact, be beneficial to kayakers as they create an outward draw and settle the waves in certain areas. We could identify several within a few hundred meters of our location.
I was terrified, memories of the tumult of a few weeks ago still crashed in my mind, tensing my body and waking me at night, listening to the waves.
I needed to go out.
While we could stick to the canals for another hundred kilometers or so, my fear was crashing right outside our front door, and who can deny that call without committing herself to a life of fearful evasion and the mounting trauma of being forced to face it at some later point? If I have learned anything from this journey, it is that your doubts and fears will always catch you, again and again. Only by facing them can you move through and dissipate them. Until that time, they will burden you and, if unheeded, will become the work of future generations to untangle.
So, we set out. And my fears were realized when a wave crashed over me and flipped me. The water rushing about my head, the panic mounting – I did not manage to execute a roll, but I did manage to stay in that place of roaring fear for a few extra seconds before pulling my spray skirt and exiting. Richard paddled out and helped me back to shore.
He offered that we head back in to the canals, but I did not want to retreat. This needed to be manageable if I was ever to be worthy of the sea. We pumped the boat, and I tried again. This time I made it. I was out to sea. Five weeks later than I had anticipated, it had thrown the timing of the whole project, but finally I had made it to where I wanted to be. Out on the ocean blue. I had, quite literally broken through waves of fear.
For the next week, the seas and sky were merciful. The swells were less than a meter, the winds came in only for a few hours in the middle of the day and the evenings were glassy calm. The shore glided past on my right, constant and smooth. At 1 km out, you can see the beach and the surf, at 2 km out it is just a line of trees, from 3 km out the land is layers of varying shades of green across a wide blue expanse.
I loved being out at sea. Closer to the coast you have the context of the shoreline moving but from further out all you have is the rhythm of your paddle cutting through the water. You lose your frame of reference. It can be frustrating when you can’t tell whether you are moving, you just have to trust that you are.
For the first time this season, my mind went silent. There was nothing to sort, there simply was what was. I did not carry weights, I was carried by weight. More and more I experienced those moments of peaceful presence. When a dragonfly or butterfly flew past. When a bird dove from the sky. When the sunlight caught on the water just so and I moved among a million scattered diamonds.
Being surrounded by those moments I recognized they had been present even through the challenges of the river, where I had admittedly met them less frequently. As they returned to being my norm, again I breathed easy. I breathed into the strength of my muscles. I breathed into the deep waters beneath me. I breathed into the skies and merciful cloud cover above. There is a lot of space to breathe atop the sea.
Finally, I had found what I came seeking.