I love New York City. I lived there for almost 30 years, rural worm in the Big Apple. The buildings, the people, the theater, the hubbub (the bagels). I don’t regret a moment of my life there. But as I’ve mentioned before, my world has moved on.
And now I’m living in the country…fabulous! The wildlife, the friendly faces, the garden, the tranquility, the river. Meandering nearby my town is the lovely Chenango with its balmy shores and amicable currents. The Chenango is a reasonable river, narrow, gurgling, twisting along the valley like a sparkling and gentle serpent.
Recently my nephew suggested we go kayaking on the Chenango. “Certainly!” I chirped. Having been around boats all my life and once, in the distant past, having served as editor of a boating magazine, I was, so to speak, fully on board with the idea. After all, my dad had rowboats and powerboats, and while in New York I spent many a fine sunset sailing around Long Island Sound.
When I announced to friends I was going kayaking down the river I was pummeled with warnings, dreadful tales of hapless kayakers being tossed overboard and swept away by rapids or being knocked senseless by treacherous river trees. “Nonsense,” I said, repeating my battle cry: “I’ve been around boats all my life!”
So on an abrosial Thursday afternoon Thad and I set off for the Chenango River, jolly in our van with two kayaks and a jug of cucumber martinis. I imagined the experience: floating side by side with my beloved kin, paddling gently along pointing out birds and fishes until finding a spot where we might stop and sip our drinks and discuss all manner of pastoral existence.
We arrived at the riverbank and I noticed right away that the water was low. Okay, I thought, this is probably a good thing since my friend’s admonitions about taking on the river had not completely escaped me. While yes, I’d been around boats all my life yada yada yada, I had never in fact attempted water travel in a kayak. But Thad had assured me. “Nothing to it!”
The next thing I noticed was that my nephew carried both kayaks out of the van and plopped them in the water. “Uh, they seem light….” I said as he waved away my concern. This should have been my first warning.
His plan, he explained, was that we would kayak upriver and then, after a mile or so, glide serenely back to fulfill my imagined martini drinking and fish and bird observations. I liked the gliding back part. The “paddling upriver” part didn’t seem so idyllic to my 55-year-old upper body muscles, but as the saying goes, in for penny in for a pound. I’m a country girl again! And into the kayak I went.
Within approximately 65 seconds and no more than ten yards from shore, I pointed my kayak into what appeared to me to be less than amicable currents. In fact, the currents were anything but amicable. Before I had time to be surprised that an aquatic channel with so little water could be so forceful, the kayak and myself were snatched up by rapids, spun 180 degrees and flung under what can only be described as a treacherous river tree. My nephew, an experienced kayaker (or so I thought) raced to my rescue and was, in kind, snatched, spun, and flung to exactly the same spot. There we were, tangled in branches and wedged in a jam that included two kayaks, downed timber, cascading leaves, and a jug of cucumber martinis.
Both of us having relatively high IQs (all evidence to the contrary), we managed to fight our way out of the tree and agreed that perhaps a more calm body of water was in order. With twigs in our hair we struggled our way back to shore and did indeed find another spot, a local reservoir where martinis were drunk, birds were spotted, and conversation was good. In the end it was lovely day.
Which brings me to this day. I just got off the telephone with my sister, who reported that Thad and his father Bill went kayaking this afternoon. In the Chenango (I guess Thad thought problems with the earlier incident lay with me). It seems as they were gliding along Thad’s father pointed his kayak into some rapids and whoops! was snatched, spun, and flung into a treacherous river tree. A baptism ensued, and from the report I got Bill was seen by his horrified son to be flailing around underwater until finally an arm and a paddle emerged. In the end the fellows decamped unscathed, if you don’t count pounding hearts and at least one boater with soaking wet duds.
Last I heard Thad was at home having a cucumber martini and recalibrating his kayaking strategies. As for Bill, I’m thinking of giving him a call and gloating, “At least I didn’t go into the water...”