Heart of Darkness

I have a friend who owns two kayaks and I went in one of them yesterday for the first time. I didn't just sit in it on shore, though I probably would've been happy to do that; I actually went into the Schuylkill River and paddled (with a life jacket mom, and water wings and extra oxygen tank just in case I should fall topsy-turvy into the drink). Whenever I try a new "sport" or activity of some kind, I'm hopeful that I will somehow be a genius at it--that I must have this hidden, not before discovered talent. I've never been good at sports of any kind, could even manage to miss the ball in t-ball and was frequently second to last picked on any sports team in elementary school, right before the girl with the lazy eye and gimpy arm (and on some occasions, after her). In volleyball, I would duck if the ball happened to careen my way and in basketball, I am excellent at pitching the ball directly at the rim so that it bounces off and hits me square in the forehead. I harbor many painful memories of having various sports equipment knock my glasses clean off my head (including a badminton birdie). So now, as a adult with a little more body confidence, it still seems possible that I might yet find my calling (even though I've had little success. A few years ago, Jodie and I went riding on her mother's horses in a corral and I managed to fall off the horse in slow motion as the saddle tipped sideways while the horse trotted and I got more and more perpendicular to the ground without knowing how to right myself and found myself landing gently on the ground with the horse continuing on unencumbered). But I've never tried kayaking. I didn't turn in hopeless circles in the water, but I also didn't show any particular innate ability. It's not really that hard to do--you dip the paddles one after the other on either side of the kayak and are propelled forward. In my case, I moved ahead in two inch increments, even going downstream. The Schuylkill is a very calm river (at least where we were) and you should be able to go down it in relative peace, enjoying the geese and debris gliding next to you. However, I am also not very good at relaxing and so spent most of the time thinking, Okay, how long will it take until I get under the bridge and trying different paddling techniques which resulted in me ending up like I had fallen into the water. Only one awkward moment when I found myself floating into overhanging trees and having to pull branches out of my hair while at the same time smiling to show how easy the whole thing was for me. We did about five miles in a hour and the sun was setting and almost gone by the time we made it back to the starting point. It was quiet on the river and I had this moment where I was relatively alone and thought of Conrad's book and how creepy it would be to be stuck in a strange land, going down the river and not knowing what was around the neck bend (hostile natives? The guys from Deliverance?).

(As an aside, Henri is now sitting on my lap while I type this and doesn't seem to realize that he is really too big for this. He makes it nearly impossible to reach the keyboard over his fat furriness).

I still wish I could find something that I'm really good at and that I'm able to do without constantly evaluating my ability. Table tennis? Fusball? Sky-diving? At least I tried it, right? And will try it again though not on any Class 16 rivers just yet.

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