The previous day’s forced stop and the growing threat of Fiona making landfall in the Maritimes saw me in the canoe determined to get as far down Baie de Chaleur as possible. This would be the last day on the Baie for at least the next three. Onshore winds and the commensurate chop and swell would make it impossible to paddle. As long as the wind held off, every kilometer paddled meant one less or more portaged.
Paddling is twice as fast, less than half the work, and way more fun than being harnessed to the a fully loaded canoe and pulling it over hill and dale. The thought of it kept me paddling hard all day.
The wind stayed light, the waves non-existent, and my motivation high. I cannot say where the time goes on days like these. I start, and sometime later, I stop. Fatigue dictates where the day will end when Mother Nature’s bad side is nowhere to be found.
I am often asked what I think about while paddling. All that time alone with few distractions, surely you must be thinking of something. I really don’t know how to answer that question without sounding like a simpleton. The truth of it is, I’m not thinking at all. So the answer to the question is, truthfully, nothing. Which isn’t very interesting to enquiring minds. I usually make it worse by fumbling for an answer on the spot.
Thinking of nothing at all is not at all easy. It is hard being and staying empty-headed. It is, in fact, the goal of most meditative practices and there is certainly something zen-like in doing the same simple thing 18,000 times.
The world is a different place when viewed with an open heart and an empty head. Time is different. Our relationship to and perceptions of everything around us is different. Time is different. Perhaps we are, in fact, different.
The next time I am asked what I am thinking when paddling I think the answer will be ‘I don’t think of anything. At the moment I become truly empty- headed, at that point, I think of everything.