I sat floating 40 feet from shore, heart pounding out of my chest, my dog happily eating the snack of canned cat food I had used to entice him into the canoe, wondering why I ever thought a solo trip in the BWCA was a good idea.
“What was I thinking? This is potentially quite dangerous. I haven’t camped or canoed in many years. I have a terrible sense of direction. Friends and family told me I was crazy to do my first trip to the BWCA on my own. And-I-think-there-are-eels-in there!”
The day was exquisite. Bright July sun, a scattering of clouds which ameliorated the intensity of the heat from time to time. A perfect Minnesota day. After a few more panic-soaked minutes, I paddled back to shore. I got out of the canoe, pulled it up, let the dog run wild, sat down on a rock, now full-on crying. Foremost in my mind was the fear of actually going through with the trip, and secondarily, I began to anticipate the shame and embarrassment of telling people that I had chickened out of the big adventure I had been looking so forward to for months.
Suddenly a van pulled up from one of those hundreds of north country outfitters. An elderly couple got out with the driver, and I watched the three of them pull the canoe off the top of the van and load it up with their packs. The couple waved to the driver who smiled and said, “See you here in five days.” The driver, an athletic, strong-looking woman maybe my own age or a little older then took a moment to stop and look at me sitting there on the rock, canoe loaded, dog wandering, going nowhere.
She asked, “Are you all right?”
I responded half tearfully that I was scared and having second thoughts about going out. And she said, “Well, if there were anything I could do for you, I would. But this is up to you. I think you can do it.” She smiled, not at all comfortingly, and drove off.
I hadn’t originally intended for this trip to be a solo journey. Having never experienced the boundary waters, I wanted to see what all the talk was about. I had tried to enlist friends and family, but the practicality of modern life and schedules and work proved too difficult to overcome, and it had become clear as day that this was a journey I needed to take alone; I was being offered an opportunity to embrace my deepening relationship with myself. As I became used to the idea, I was excited and curious as to what an adventure like this was going to teach me. In preparation for the trip, I was surprisingly fearless. I prepared by going to a seminar on boundary water camping, and I learned paddling techniques and camping skills from countless YouTube videos. Which is why my little panic attack so caught me off guard.
And as I sat on the rock watching myself cry like a baby, it hit me. The strong and awesome outfitter woman was absolutely correct. It all is really up to me. This is my Life. Am I going to walk straight into it or am I going to watch from the sidelines, or in this case, the shoreline? The fear rising in me had nothing to do with my physical safety or paddling skills, but was about being utterly alone with myself for the first time in a very long time. The fear was about being present in my relationship with myself, and apparently it was pretty scary. How is it that we all seem to be afraid to know ourselves, really know ourselves? Clearly this moment in nature was a gift being offered to me as a thoroughly juicy opportunity for growth in my spiritual awakening — if I chose to accept it.
I got up, loaded the pup back into the canoe, and pushed off, now crying the big round tears that came from the opened-up place of acceptance and joy. With another breath, I felt myself let go even more, and then I took a good look around me. As if on cue, the tall grasses lining the perimeter of Lake One opened up and gestured their silent invitation. The trees pointed me in the right direction and I allowed myself to be present to an infinite sense of love, belonging and peace.
I knew in the deepest sense that I was positioned squarely in the perfection of my path and purpose and delighted in my decision to embrace it head on.