Immediately after our boat roared onto the beach we got out and walked in opposite directions. Neither of us had anything to say. We had violated our simplest safety rule and it was only by luck or by grace that we didn’t die. My friend Will Miles and I were kayaking in Prince William Sound. We were over thirty miles from Whittier, Alaska, the closest town, this was no time to make a mistake. On numerous occasions we had reflected on a simple rule of common sense and safety.
If after ten minutes, you are still talking about whether you should go or not, you should not go.
Should we ski down that slope?
Should we cross that rock face without roping up?
Should we skip the trail and bushwhack over the ridge?
Should we launch our boat into those waves?
If after ten minutes of vigorous debate we are still standing around wondering, then it is time to abandon the reckless option, figure out plan b and stick to it. On this day, after 30 minutes of vigorous debate, with waves growing in intensity while crashing on the shore, rain pouring down, our bodies on the edge of hypothermia, we decided we could make it. Just push the double kayak into the waves, jump into the cockpit, attach the spray skirts and paddle hard. This seemed reasonable. It should be ok. We’d done it before. With waves this big? Maybe not. Oh well. So we did it, and it worked, sort of. The boat did not capsize, spray skirts went on tight and fast, we did not lose anything or fill the kayak with water. We made it less than a mile before we were forced to the shore once again. This time the storm kept us in place for three days.
Will and I are both people of faith. We speak of it quite differently yet we both recognize the presence of the Holy in moments of certainty and moments of doubt. We are unlikely to stop, hold hands and take turns praying together. We are unlikely to stop. It is in movement that we are most in touch with the life of prayer. Our arms screamed as we pushed the kayak paddles against the waves, unwilling to stop until we were in a safe place. God, who is alive everywhere, makes the divine presence known to us in these moments.
It happens in simpler times and places too. An early morning run through the neighborhood, watching my dogs sprint through the desert with an athleticism that far exceeds mine, examining rocks and flowers with my granddaughter, Victoria.
St Brendan, The Navigator often prayed, “Help me to journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown.” For me, that journey is a prayer and it comes alive when I move.
It is my intention to offer a new blogpost each Friday where I will reflect on such things. It is also my intention to invite guest bloggers, who will offer a different slant on these matters. I hope you will choose to join us as we explore movement, adventure, prayer and the way they are intertwined in the lives of those of us who are questing about for a connection between our minds, our bodies, our heart for adventure and the presence of the Holy.