Varied Surroundings

There is more to being human than travelling around the world sampling its many delights, and recent reading has taken me deeper into subjects like philosophy. Though I am a scientist by training, the humanities continue to appeal to me, and various life events have led me to explore them more than otherwise might have been the case. That is now the main thrust of what you find here, along with other things that have a use in navigating life’s journey.

The Ten Rules of the Canoe

These were spotted in a Wanderlust magazine article describing a trip along the Mississippi River, and their phrasing caught my attention. They were developed by the con­tin­gent of Wash­ing­ton State’s Quileute people to the North­w­est Exper­i­en­tial Edu­ca­tion Con­fer­ence in 1990 and are reproduced here with some grammatical tweaks. Otherwise, I left things as they were.


Every stroke we take is one less we have to make. Even against the most relent­less wind or ret­ro­grade tide, some­how a canoe moves for­ward. This mys­tery can only be explained by the fact that each pull for­ward is real move­ment and not delu­sion.


There is to be no abuse of self or oth­ers. Respect and trust can­not exist in anger, it must be thrown over­board where the sea can cleanse it. It has to be washed off the hands and cast into the air, so the stars can take care of it.


Be flex­ible because the adapt­able animal sur­vives. If you get tired, ship your paddle and rest. If you get hungry, put in on the beach and eat a few oysters. When you can’t fig­ure one way to make it, do something new. When the wind con­fronts you, it is some­times because you are sup­posed to go the other way.


Every story is import­ant. The bow, the stern, the skip­per, the power puller in the middle, every­one is part of the move­ment. The elder sits in her cedar at the front, singing her paddle song, pray­ing for us all. The weary pad­dler rest­ing is still bal­last.


We all pull and sup­port each other, as noth­ing occurs in isol­a­tion. When we aren’t part of the fam­ily of a canoe, we are not ready for whatever comes. The fam­ily will never let itself sink. When we know that we are not alone in our actions, we also know we are lif­ted up by every­one else.


A hungry per­son has no charity, so always nour­ish your­self. The bit­ter per­son, think­ing that sac­ri­fice means self-destruc­tion, shares mostly anger. A pad­dler who doesn’t eat at the feasts doesn’t have enough strength to paddle in the morn­ing. The gift of who you are only enters the world when you are strong enough to own it.


Exper­i­ences are not enhanced through cri­ti­cism. Who we are, what we do, why we con­tinue, flour­ishes with tol­er­ance. The men and women who find the light­est flow may some­times go slow, but when they arrive, they can still sing.


The jour­ney is what we enjoy. Although the start is excit­ing and the con­clu­sion achieved, it is the long, steady pro­cess we remem­ber. Being part of the jour­ney requires great pre­par­a­tion; being done with a jour­ney requires great aware­ness; being on the jour­ney, we are much more than ourselves.


A good teacher allows the stu­dent to learn. We can berate each other, try to force each other to under­stand, or we can allow each pad­dler to gain their aware­ness through the ongo­ing jour­ney. Each pad­dler learns to deal with the per­son in front, the per­son behind, the water, the air, the energy, the bless­ing of the eagle.


When given a choice, choose to be a worker bee and make honey.