What is this paddling thing I always say?

paddle your own canoe.


I sign off like this often — it’s a mantra that guides a lot of what I do. It’s something my family’s said to me forever.

On its surface, it means find your own course, do your own thing. Be independent. Don’t let someone else put you in a box and tell you where you’re supposed to go.

But paddling isn’t just about driving yourself somewhere. The canoe as a mode of transportation isn’t as bruising as a motorboat, isn’t as clumsy and backwards as a rowboat. It’s about finding your unique balance on your path and understanding your relationship to your environment. Every movement of your paddle affects the movement of your canoe. Every swirl and eddy in the water. Every moment of action and inaction matters.

You have to consider the topography, the wildlife. You need to expect to come across things just under the surface of the water and mind the bank. You need to respect the habitat you’re moving through and respect the power of the natural environment. Lose sight of either and you or someone else could suffer for it. Mind yourself, mind your neighbours.

Paddling is about responding to the changing conditions on the lake and choosing the best way to proceed. Sometimes you need to reverse course. Sometimes you need to head for shore. Sometimes you need to turn into someone else’s wake, face the waves head-on. Sometimes the wind forces you in circles until you realize the best way to go is to face the stern and do something totally different.

Paddle your own canoe could easily be an expression about independence, or isolation. I mean it as something more hopeful and all-encompassing than that. It’s a shorthand for safe journey and find your balance and chase your bliss and clear skies and reflect and much more.

I wish you all clear skies and still waters. And, as always, folks, paddle your own canoe.



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