Wave of Reflection

Finding gratitude in spring.

“I would maintain that thanks is the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” —G.K. Chesterton

This past year served up a healthy plate of introspection. We dealt with toil and tragedy, setback and confusion. For many, times got a little tough. But periods of adversity have positive takeaways, and a little bit of forced reflection isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes, it’s quite good. 

Late last spring, I paddled Yankee Jim Canyon for the first time. The river was at medium flows and from the road, none of the rapids appeared complex. After a smooth and affirming first lap, a few of us swapped crafts, and my cousin and I decided to take a tandem duckie. All was dandy until we capsized in the boils above Boxcar Rapid, hundreds of feet above the pinch in the canyon.

After a couple hard strokes toward the bank, it was quickly apparent that I wouldn’t make it before the narrows. I stopped, saved up energy, and prepared a deep breath for the meat. When I went under, tumbling around like clothes in a washing machine, our scouting judgements replayed in my head. Was this actually as nonchalant as it looked? I thought as a blur of green and white shapes shot a firehose of water up my nose and ears. My cousin’s paddle hit me in the leg. Then my head collided with his thigh. Lungs beginning to exhaust, I crouched into a ball, and the current sent me deep into the channel, releasing me from the hole. Seconds later, I popped up beside my cousin, who was equally dazed and disabled. 

We flopped back aboard the capsized kayak, coughing and grunting, almost angry-like. Then we started laughing. Seconds later, we slipped into a soft, deliberate silence. The day felt different, and we contemplated. Had the river not let both of us go, the day would’ve been different, and it seemed like something that deserved honoring.

Emotions were high, and in a flash of minutes, we’d been through the gamut of them. From excitement in the first waves; to fear being underwater; and finally, gratitude at the takeout. Thankful for our good fortune, each other, and the wild river itself, the simple realization that we were at the mercy of something else—something much larger than us—was refreshing.

In a way, this past year has offered all of us this reminder. Waves of uncertainty crash, regardless if we run rivers or not. When they do, it’s on us to recheck our priorities and ask ourselves the important questions like, what can we be grateful for today?

These experiences offer lessons, and lessons lead to wisdom. We can learn, reawaken, and become better people.

Spring is the time of beginnings, when forests come to life and fresh rain rinses our mountains and valleys clean. Warm winds fill the air with opportunity, and novelty can be found with every blooming wildflower. A new day is dawning. Cherish it.