It’s been a while since I’ve written; my entire 8th season guiding in Alaska has passed. I’ll use the excuse that I was too busy pondering my emotional freedom while paddling around icebergs. I’m currently in Panama, eagerly awaiting my first sea kayaking trip to Guna Yala next week. That will kick off a busy paddling season here! (Promotional plug: There are still trips with space available. Contact me.)
When the owner of Best Marine & Outdoors, a company that sells kayak accessories and safety equipment (available in the USA, Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, & Spain), invited me to contribute to their wonderful blog about the benefits of kayaking, I happily got to writing. Check out their blog and website here. I wanted to write something both relevant to our current rapidly changing environment, as well as something that encourages us to think about transformation in nature in a different way; that can invite acceptance and freedom from emotional turmoil, which we all experience in life.
Kayaking can make us better human beings. In addition to the more obvious physical benefits of any type of exercise, kayaking has the ability to positively impact our emotional and mental states. How does this look for me? Read on to learn how paddling specifically in Alaska around icebergs has affected my mental/emotional health and ability to go through life with more grace, non-attachment, and joy, especially through difficult times, so that you might give it a try too and enjoy these same benefits.
Icebergs are one of the most beautiful things in this world, and one of my favorite parts of paddling in Alaska. There is ice everywhere, even in the warmer months of summer. I’ve spent countless hours marveling that ice can take such diverse form, size, color, and density. . . each piece unique in its stage of life and movement. I love to observe the different sounds that emerge from ice: popping, hissing, sizzling, and groaning. I’ve sat in a kayak and watched icebergs the size of an apartment building split in half and roll around seeking equilibrium, water and ice cascading and spraying into the air. Oh, how marvelous!
I look to ice as a great teacher, offering a sense of freedom, as well as pacifying turbulent times in life. Contemplating the transient nature of ice teaches me to approach life in the same way, especially uncomfortable situations. Ice is in a constant state of transformation (not for one second is it ever the same as before); melting and freezing, breaking apart and floating away, becoming water. No piece of ice will ever exist again in that same way. This sentiment is extremely liberating, as it can be applied to all feelings and thoughts, which we know can be quite terrorizing and overwhelming. Whether it’s sadness, anger or even ecstatic happiness that I’m experiencing I look to the ice and a sense of tranquility immediately passes over me. It will pass. Whatever it is. . . It will pass. There is nothing to hold on to, just as the ice does not struggle to hold on to the water that comprises it nor the ocean in which it’s floating. That’s comforting, isn’t it?
I’d like to share an excerpt from my journal on October 15, 2016, the day that I left Alaska after my fifth season kayak guiding for Anadyr Adventures in Prince William Sound.
. . . All of these natural wonders take away the clutter in my mind. . . teach me the value of letting go of what does not matter in life, and to cherish what does, which is the present moment, love, compassion, and gratitude. Somehow these wonders are teachers. Somehow a floating chunk of ice teaches me that nothing ever stays the same. . . everything is constantly in a state of transformation; thoughts, feelings, and emotions included. I learn to let go of all of them, watch them pass by as I watch floating ice pass by, never to be experienced quite the same way again. Just like the ice I will watch millions of thoughts go by, and I must let go of each and every one of them. It is a struggle, for sure. Yet, does the ice struggle? I think not!
There you have it. Ice. Is. Amazing. If anyone has any thoughts they’d like to share, I’d love to read them. How does kayaking benefit you? How has paddling around ice (or nature, in general) impacted your life? Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more. I won’t let another full season go by without writing more blogs. Take great care, everyone! Peruse my website, blog, and contact me for information on day and multi-day sea kayaking trips based out of Valdez, Alaska, as well as Caribbean & Pacific coasts of Panama.