Friday, February 26, 2016


Wherever there is a channel for water, there is a road for the canoe.  Henry David Thoreau

 It is no secret I love kayaking. If I'm not paddling across a lake or river,  I'm usually thinking about paddling across a lake or stream. To ease the stress of the day, my mind literally drifts away planning the next great outing on the water with the poetic words of naturalist Sigurd Olson, voyaging through my head, heart and soul.
 If it is calm, the canoes drifting through reflections with nothing to break the vast silence but the hypnotic swish of paddles, there are moments when one seems suspended between heaven and earth. If it is stormy and the lakes alive, with whitecaps and blowing spume, each instant is full of battle and excitement. When, after hours and sometimes days, the misty outlines of the lake take form again, islands slowly emerge and float upon the surface, headlands become real, one passes through a door into the beyond itself and the mystery is no more.
 So it really came as no surprise when I read Kaydi Pyette's article in the current issue of Canoeroots magazine entitled Find Your Bliss stating that people are happier when they spend money on experiences, not things. Pyette states, according to psychology professor at Cornell University researcher Dr. Thomas Gilovich, experiences, rather than material goods, make us happier in the long run. This is contrary to what some people feel is true, since material goods last longer than individual experiences. Yet, the happy memories associated with a concert or ski trip last longer, creating more of a positive impact than the short-term happiness from a single purchase.

"Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods," said Gilovich in an interview with Co. Exist's Jay Cassano, "You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless, they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences."

Pyette's article went on to say, that even bad experiences create happy memories. A camping trip of nothing but rain becomes a great opportunity for bonding, and an excellent story to tell. Stressful, uncomfortable and scary experiences can be turned into funny stories and later be seen as valuable learning experiences.

"We consume experiences directly with other people," said Gilovich. "And after they're gone, they're part of the stories that we tell to one another."

 There is something about paddling: the quiet rhythm of the blade sliding in and out of the water, the feel of my body's movement and tempo as I lean into the stroke and pull the paddle toward me. For me, there are no bad days on the water,  only great memories.

"There have been countless campfires, each one different, but some so blended into their backgrounds that it is hard for them to emerge." wrote Sigurd Olson, "But I have found that when I catch even a glimmer of their almost forgotten light in the eyes of some friend who has shared them with me, they begin to flame once more. Those old fires have strange and wonderful powers. Even their memories make life the adventure it was meant to be."