Saturday, July 6, 2019

Risky Business


 Recently, we visited a neighbouring island to check on a cabin.  My husband loaded the inflatable with all our gear and I slid in the kayak.  
In the kayak before the waves built
  “Sure you’re okay?” he called and I waved him on.  Of course I was. I was in familiar water and I knew what I was doing. It was a brisk day with a wind chop and I was alone. I had all my safety gear on, but as the chop got a little higher and the water got a little closer to my cockpit with every wave, my imagination began to anticipate what might happen if I dumped into the cold spring sea and had to swim to the nearest shore.  I edged closer to the shore, just in case, and the currents pushed me back into eddies. Nope.  I had to trust my boat and surf the open water of the connecting passage. 
            As the waves swept under me and my kayak rocked and splashed, my heart began to race. I ignored the voice in the back of my head telling me I was stupidly overconfident and dug my paddle into the foam at the top of each wave.  Eventually I crossed the open water and made it into the relative shelter of the next island.  By the time I worked my way up the island and glided into the calm bay, I was elated.  I’d gone into an adrenaline-charged state that strengthened my arms and my will and left me with a rush of joy.

It reminded me of an outing last summer, when I climbed with family members to a high lookout and repeater station above Shuswap Lake in the interior of BC.  The viewpoint was a small section carved out of the side of the mountain, and my stomach lurched as my son and his girlfriend inched closer to the precipice. But the view and the threat of a terrifying drop sent another rush of fire through my heart.
On the precipice over Shuswap Lake


            Moving to Gabriola Island has made life easier in many ways.  I no longer commute by ferry and float plane from Vancouver on weekends. I no longer fight bridge traffic on my way to work. I no longer engage in bureaucratic battles at work to fight for change.  It’s been a time of doing what suits me, saying “No” to what doesn’t, and not worrying about making the easier choices.  But this new life is not all about pulling the lever on the La-Z-Boy.  I find myself needing to take a few risks, to get the blood and adrenaline flowing. 
            Without the daily aggravation of professional city life, I need to challenge myself in other ways.  I’ve joined a theatre group and climbed, heart thumping, on stage. 
 I’ve joined a walking group that pushes my endurance and reminds me that older doesn’t necessarily mean slower.  As you know if you’ve read previous posts, I’ve begun cycling off-road trails that challenge my courage and my leg muscles.

At Indigo on Robson
At the RPL launch of Baggage
          Then there’s writing.  I launched my second novel, Baggage, in May, and revisited the city for a presentation at the Richmond Public Library, school visits, a book signing at Indigo on Robson Street and a Writers Festival at Vancouver Public Library. A week later, there was a Gabriola Library presentation, attended by friends from my new life. The stress of getting books to the venue on time, saying the right thing at the right time, facing an audience of expectant faces, and being reminded that a writer is only as good as her last book kept me up at night.  But each event reminds me that I don’t know what I can do until I’m pushed. Taking a risk is keeping alive.
Signing books at the Gabriola Library

            I’m not advocating jumping out of a plane without a parachute, but I know that I need to climb out of my comfort zone if I want to grow.  It might be summertime and the living might be easy, but I can’t get too far back from the edge for too long.
            So I open a new document and write the first words of a new book.   And when the waves get bigger and my heart starts beating faster, then I know I’m alive. 

1 comment:

  1. Yay! What a celebration of life, Wendy. Thank you. I too am feeling the rush you describe from putting myself in unfamiliar situations and being open to learning new stuff. Aging is wonderful in that it provides perspective and confidence that I will still be here, despite fear that makes me think I won't. Here is my list of scary things that don't threaten my life. Performing, disagreeing openly, camping alone in the wilderness, being a member of a minority group in a crowded marketplace, riding a bike in downtown Arusha. The focus required, the adrenaline! It's got to be good for us!

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