Monday, August 6, 2007

Back in Saddle--sort of

Fear is that little dark room where negatives are developed.
Michael Pritchard

Sorry to have been absent for so long.

My laptop charging pin snapped off the motherboard, so no laptop (new MacBookPro on order). And my cell phone fell off the kitchen island and it’s charging pin bent so I couldn’t recharge.

Hmm. Is the universe trying to tell me something?
Like, “you aren’t recharging” or “disconnect for a while”?

So I listened.
I returned to the Elbow River to the scene of “the incident”.
Sat quietly, overwhelmed by the sound of the water. It was the sound I remember most from hanging there in the river.

I cried a river.

Then I walked downstream put my hands in the rushing water, and my eyes to the sky and thanked the River Gods for releasing me.

And I paddled.
First a canoe. On flat water of beautiful Lake Minnewanka.
My sensitive, sweetie, Michael packed an elegant picnic complete with china, wine (in real glass stemware!), and a wildflower bouquet. Terrific.

Next, a canoe in the swift water of the Kootenay.
That was scarier. We arrived at our campsite riverside after midnight, so we slept in the back of the van with the back flipped open to hear the water and feel the stars.

I couldn’t sleep. I panicked and started walking down the highway--heading back home. I was irrational. Freaking out imagining all the ways I could die if the canoe overturned. Michael talked me off the ledge. I got back into the van and fell asleep.

In the morning, I was glad. It was a star day, perfect for paddling.
The azure blue river took us to the take out--safe and sound.

Next kayak was on Murtle Lake with some canoe support.
Perfect despite the rain.

And finally, I took myself down the Bow downstream of the Falls in Banff. Easy-peezey. I had done this 20 times on my own and felt totally at peace. This time, every fallen log looked menacing--and there was a lot of dead fall lurking off the banks.

What helped was focusing on the areas of the river I had never explored. The little tributaries and marshes that wended away from the river’s body. Some times in life it pays to get out of the main current, and take a look around.

So, I’m officially back on the horse. Well almost. Paddling the Ottawa with Janee and Susanne will make it official.

I am still looking forward to trying ocean surfing. And now I’ve even more reason to. There are no logs! All the surfing action a girl can dream of...but only the sand and surf to smack me upside the head. I’m heading to Cortes Island off the coast of Vancouver Island in September. Maybe Tofino is a place to park and play?!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Death Confirmed

(Entry posted 3 months after date listed out of respect for Linda’s family. I didn’t want the media snooping into this. I’ve posted finally--and post-dated it, as I feel the messages in it are important.)

I received a call today from my paddling friend Barb. She wanted to let me know that the woman with whom I’d kayaked during my own near-death paddling experience, had died over the weekend.

I was stunned. Struck physically with the news.

27 years old, mother of 2 girls and she died just like that. 2 weeks after my accident.

Linda’s dead. I am alive.

After hearing the news, I cried for what seemed like hours. My body shook hard as I fought for breath.

The day of my accident, as we floated down the river before everything went wrong, I had told her I was worried that she was taking undue chances with her choices of rivers.

I had agreed to paddle with her on the Elbow, a smaller river, in part, to share this opinion. It wasn’t right for an email or phone call. I told her she was getting a reputation for being a bit reckless. She seemed hurt and surprised. She said she used to paddle with a crazier crowd--and I felt reassured.

We had e-mailed in May about running the Kicking Horse later in the summer. I needed convincing. It was a big, hairy river. I wanted to paddle it with someone I trusted implicitly if I did it at all. She felt very confident. She said she knew the river and I could follow her.

I always admired her confidence. She seemed fearless.
But maybe a bit of fear is there for a reason--to preserve us.

Thinking back on what happened to me, to Linda, I
reflect on how important it is to:
-know yourself and your limitations/abilities
-trust your companions
-know the river or have a guide who knows it really well
-scout anything you’re a bit concerned about
-remember before running that first aid only works when they reach you in time
-a little fear is a good thing, a lot of fear can be managed, but absence of fear, when fear is reasonable, is a warning.

As I reflect, I wonder why I wasn’t afraid of dying as I slowly asphyxiated that day. I had thought it was my spiritual beliefs and that I’d lived life well, fully. But maybe, just maybe, there’s more for me to reflect on. Right now, shock

The announcement of Linda’s accident follows.

From the Sun

Calgary woman dies after capsizing

UPDATED: 2007-07-31 01:31:57 MST


After her kayak capsized in a B.C. river, a 27-year-old Calgary woman died in hospital.

Linda Huu Thi Thanh Englehart was kayaking on the Kicking Horse River east of Golden, about 260 km west of Calgary, on Saturday when her boat overturned.

STARS air ambulance transported the woman to Foothills hospital, where she died on Sunday.

Englehart leaves behind husband Denny and two daughters, Alyssa and Jenna.