Riding through the centre wave

March 2, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

By coincidence, I had two conversations about paddling a canoe this week. The first was over lunch with a friend, and the subject came up by his relating a moment of his personal history, canoeing through the city in which he was raised.

“We could paddle right across the city,” he related. “The water was fast and there were two narrow bridges where it was really churned up. Lots of people were dumped in there.”

Naturally, I asked if that had happened to him and he told me no – the only way to travel through those conditions was to go straight through the middle of the churning water.

“Where those two waves meet in the middle,” he said, “You just paddle straight and the water will carry you through.”

It was hard to believe that driving straight into the middle of the turmoil was the best thing to do, to keep a canoe upright and sail safely on, but my companion just smiled and nodded, repeating like an old folk saying that has been proven time and again, “the water will carry you through.”

A couple of days later, I did an interview with Taylor Pace of Canoe North Adventures to talk about the upcoming 2023 Real Paddling Film Festival Canoe North is hosting at the Opera House on Mar. 5. We talked about the content and the reasons for canoeing that the films demonstrate and promote.

Passage on water is exciting for many reasons. It is the oxygen in the air, how brisk and fresh riding on the water feels. The constant movement, the lift and dip of the water road beneath a solid vessel. Where there is water, there is life in abundance, freedom from concrete, freedom from the stifle of crowds and traffic.

We long for freedom like this, and it is not necessarily available to us all. Many will fear the risk in the water more than the possible joys. Many have other passions, other freedoms, other places where life abounds.

Too many people are bound by the places they have landed, very far away from their childhood dreams, their aspirations as adolescents. We have tenuous control on our lives, dependent as we are on economics. Perhaps more now than ever, economics cripple freedom, where it lies in the hands of fewer people, fewer and bigger corporations.

These are strange times, a rise in the number of millionaires, even billionaires, mainly birthed of the internet and technology’s intensive new industries and the manipulation of people, the way their “data” is watched and influenced. People have handed over their privacy to eager commerce, where there are no limits to how much a loaf of bread should cost. History shows the dangers in that, but we march on, undaunted, the lessons forgotten or – worse – ignored.

So many revolutions, so many regime changes with promises for a new dawn, only to quickly discover there were reasons for the old corruptions and that to abandon them is a lot of work and to carry on like the disposed regime is simpler and better paid.

These are difficult times, a rise in poverty and the number of disabled people and the macabre lineup for MAiD. Politicians blush less at being accused and found guilty of their corruption, with no need to fear retribution from an altered system and a population of people too preoccupied by the virtual, as opposed to the actual, to force honesty from their governments.

A renewed greed is leading the pack where the call for distribution of wealth and a demand to care about what matters, not what is indulgent, are pushed aside without a single regret or qualm of conscience. Into the mire of making differences for the worse because ruinous economics suggest those changes, those few who will benefit hugely rally to defend the ruin.

Yet, serious voices are not all stilled. They have tremendous tasks before them to reach out and truly connect with the indifference that reaches like a fog through the minds of the many so that enough of them will believe they can “do something about it.”

The pressure of numbers is what works to stop the rot. Enough objections and lots of people attending public gatherings to remind politicians who they work for, who can vote them out, who can – really! – call them to account and make it matter – they have to be seen and counted by the press. It has always been the numbers that shifted history and sometimes even for the better.

Here in Canada, we are so complacent, but we were recently blinded by senseless radicalism in Ottawa, so extreme that the decision to impose the Emergency Act has been justified – here in Canada, the social scene is changing so quickly, it feels out of control.

It is not out of control, but we stand at a moment in history – one of those moments when we have to admit there is more than ourselves to think about. In defending the environment and standing against its harm, we have everything to gain.

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