Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Paddling to Latitude

Rather than saving my opinions for a comment for Thursday, I'm going to do it now. I am impatient, and impulsive, and at this point in the semester there's no sense in slamming on the breaks. I am also a fan of multiple perspectives, and since Claire has talked a little bit about what it's like in the front of the canoe on Saturday, I will talk about being in the back. 

The latter half of a canoe team is in charge of steering. By grace of having canoed before, I was granted this auspicious seat in the boat. But I did warn Claire that I'm horrid at steering, but she had a vague trust in my abilities, and that was good enough. Being in a canoe with someone is rather like playing doubles tennis: a team should work in tandem, know which area of the court to guard, and call dibs on balls lobbed down the middle. I was never great at doubles tennis. I am impatient, and impulsive, and dreadful at on-court communication. But on a tennis court, not much will happen if you don't call the middle ball and lose the point (though this hinges on a relatively uncompetitive spirit). In a canoe, lack of communication means that you are passing under a fishing line and oh shit I hope Claire hasn't been garroted on my watch (There was no spider web - that was sensationalism). In his attempt to help us out with the teamwork in a canoe thing, Andrew Jillings called himself our therapist, which seemed fair to me. Because I know that Claire likes to be in control, and I know that I have a tendency to overreact and shout completely useless directions at people, and I know that Claire despises incompetence, and I know that I wasn't exaggerating when I used 'horrid' to describe my steering skills. 

Obviously, Nine-Mile Swamp is a pretty tame adventure, especially in comparison the sorts of things we've read about this semester. But getting into a canoe with your best friend, trusting that you'll still be best friends at the end of the trip in spite of a gross lack of skills and the presence of two strong personalities, is still an adventure, and there are still risks. That's the big reason I'm enjoying this book - Jill and Doug clearly know a thing or three about teamwork and the roles they must each play every day. The adventures would be interesting without the element of their partnership, but it is the element that makes the narrative engaging.


  1. "Claire despises incompetence." You make me sound like Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada" or something.

    But in all seriousness, I think Rachel and my adventure on Nine Mile Swamp, and my experience in this class more generally, is an example of the different registers of adventure we have been talking about in class.

    Maybe Rachel and I should take this show on the road and become the new Ann and Live post-graduation?

  2. From yet another perspective, I will attest to the fact that there was a fair amount of frustration happening at the beginning of the trip in Rachel's and Claire's canoe, but by the time we were paddling back downstream, the rest of us were commenting on how we didn't hear anymore yelling and the marked improvement in the steering and rate of progress that Claire and Rachel were making. I admired their perseverance and trust in each other and their trust in their friendship. They were talking about non-canoeing things by the end of the trip, and held nothing against each other in response to their initial difficulties. It was fascinating and rewarding to observe that dynamic (people already in a relationship of some kind working as a team through difficulties) first-hand. I thank them for teaching me.

  3. I did not get a chance to go on the canoe trip, but I definitely agree that trying something new is a great way to form new relationships. We definitely bond over struggle, especially if we are able to have a sense of humor about it. One of the reasons I think that Adirondack Adventure is so effective is because many of us have not been camping before, and the new experiences and new people compliment each other nicely. That's why I always think it's worth it to push yourself to do something out of your comfort zone, because the memories are always worth it.