Years ago, I attended my first boy scout camp at Camp Little Lemhi outside Palisades, Idaho. It was there I had my first experience with paddling a canoe. A few years ago, friends introduced me to a lake kayak and I was sold. Since then, I have taken every chance I could get to dip an oar into the water. I love the tranquility and peace found will paddling around a lake or shoreline. While there are many techniques I have learned over the years, one of the most applicable across life is to keep an oar in the water.
Canoes and kayaks have very little draft, how much of the craft is below the water. Sitting on top of the water means there is little to keep the boat from being pushed around by the wind and the current. The lack of a rudder means all the steering must be completed by the person paddling. In short, the oar becomes the method of propulsion AND steering. These important tasks only happen when keeping an oar in the water.
A little oar makes a big difference
The oar blade is wide and thin, When pulled through the water, the wide surface powers the boat forward. When flipped sideways, the narrow blade becomes a rudder, able to direct the craft in the desired direction. I have always marveled somewhat that a 17 foot kayak can easily be directed by a 6 inch rudder. By contrast, an 1100 foot air craft carrier’s rudder is only 22 feet long.
My scout advisor taught me a few different methods for controlling my craft, including a couple different stroke styles. However, the one lesson he pounded into our heads time and again was the only way it worked was if we kept our oar in the water. Perhaps he really wanted us to quit splashing around, but the lesson is profound. Keep the oar in the water and it puts the boat at your command. Take the oar out of the water and the boat becomes instantly at the command of the current and the wind.
Oars in life
There are many analogies and lessons that can be made to our lives and the oar. Today, I am thinking about how goals are like an oar. Goals don’t have to be very big in size or scope to keep us tracking toward a greater destination. Working toward something, no matter how small, means we are not just allowing the current of life to sweep us along. A goal focuses our efforts and moves us along.
When I made the goal of getting up earlier in the morning, I had no idea how much change that little difference would make to my life. When I get up and get my “Three R’s” of Reading, Writing and Running complete before breakfast, the rest of my day goes much more smoothly. My day becomes more productive. When I sleep in, I have to fight harder to get everything done that I should.
Put an oar in the water
Goals are simple desires to improve ourselves. Without action, though, they are just hopes for someday. Putting the oar in the water, so to speak, is the only way the goal will benefit us. A little speed develops with each stroke or action. Pulling against the resistance of life helps us gain speed to where we want to go. A few small successes and we have momentum. Then we can settle into a steady rhythm, using the oar or goal to guide us.
When I feel adrift in my life, I realize it is time to do as my scout advisor suggested and put an oar in the water. Make a goal and start pulling. it doesn’t take long to get under way to somewhere special.