It's that time of year when we make lists of resolutions to improve ourselves and our lives in the new year. River life teaches us a lot about living. Below are a handful of river-inspired lessons for my resolutions. Take 'em or leave 'em, but at the very least I hope you enjoy 'em. Happy New Year!
1. To experience the world as I move through it.
I invest a lot in the landscapes I experience on river trips. Some of this has to do with the landscape itself, but I also believe it has to do with my affect as I move through those places. On the water, we don’t listen to audiobooks and podcasts, nor do we skim emails, make financial transactions, or manage social media. The constant pressure to MAKE EVERY MOMENT AS PRODUCTIVE AS POSSIBLE simply doesn’t translate. In the fall, when I return to city living, I often forget that this same pressure removes me from the world around me.
Working for ROW, I am encouraged to invest in and learn about my immediate environment. Perhaps 2016 is the year to bring that focus to the rest of life, even off the water.
2. Drink coffee, every day.
Some nights on the river I go to bed excited for tomorrow morning’s first cup of coffee. It motivates me to get up early and creates a ritual for starting my day. This year, I’m done trying to give up coffee, and that’s final.
3. Spend meaningful, purposive time outdoors.
I get the most out of being in the woods when I recognize why I’m there and trust in that motivation. Some days it’s because I want to hike to a vista or float a stretch of river I've never seen before. Other times, I simply need the time to “clear my head” (as the cliche goes). In 2016, I hope to remember that the meaning I derive from time outside comes from what I put into the experience. Yes, it’s important to let nature “speak to us”, but it’s rude to expect a one-sided conversation.
4. Look near, look far
“Look near, look far” is one of the fundamental techniques in running whitewater. Navigating rapids requires an ability to make the moves at hand, while keeping in mind what’s coming up. If you can’t see far enough downstream, simply choose the best immediate path. If you’re unable to choose between fast-approaching options, base your decision on where you want to be, looking as far downstream as possible. In the past, I have found this metaphor more helpful than simply telling myself to pick a path and stick with it. Common adages about the importance of making a move (or selecting a fig) miss the often incomplete perspective we have on the options at hand. Sometimes we can’t see the end of the rapid. Sometimes all the options appear equal, even though we know they are not. This year, I want to remember this rule and try applying it to my non-whitewater endeavors.
5. Have time for things.
Every year around this time, I hear people telling me to “make time for the things that matter”. My best guess is that this is supposed to manifest with more precisely scheduled outings and breaks in my workday. Perhaps what they mean is that I need to better prioritize what matters to me. This year though, I want to be done trying to make time, and, instead, want to focus on having time.
On a river trip, I find an abundance of time for myself and the guests to do things. If there is interest in stopping somewhere to check out a historical site, or in slowing things down to swim a lazy stretch of river, that’s what we do. While we still pay attention to the hours of the day and angle of the sun, the nature of a river trip means that we have the time to give full attention to what we’re doing and invest in the place and moment. So, moving forward, my goal is not to schedule more “me time”, but to invest myself in a life which has time for things I care about.
6. Wear more sunscreen.