Perhaps many of us would benefit from taking a day off of work, driving two hours south on Interstate 44 with a dear friend, and putting a kayak into Huzzah Creek, a 35.8-mile sister tributary of the Meramec River, one of Missouri’s longest free-flowing waterways.
The Huzzah is often described as “flowing clean, clear, and slow.” It is a body of water beginners and families, fishers and inebriated pranksters all enjoy. The creek’s pace is one not often practiced in contemporary culture. There is something sanctifying about slow floats, sitting on front porches, not making plans, not rushing to the next thing, the next person, the next breath.
There is inherent peace in honoring right now as it comes to us, as it unfolds with or without our intentions. There is also a lot of classic rock and visibly bad tattoos, mine included, on the Huzzah. Peace is not about uninterrupted serenity, yet another stock photo of a stone rippling the surface of the water. True peace is embracing the ragged edges of our lives and loving our wildly imperfect selves, no matter the abundance of Lynyrd Skynyrd or Led Zeppelin or faded ink.
Slowing down long enough to watch a turtle sunning itself on a submerged log, observing a catfish swim the creek bottom, and noticing a dragonfly skip across the blue-green water gave me permission to breathe, to relinquish all control and electronic devices, and to just be. It also seemed the more relaxed I was in my kayak, the better my steering, the more joyous the ride, even when my kayak dragged ass or I hit an eddy or a branch-lined bank and toppled over. Just being on the water was enough, more than enough.
Yesterday the six miles of clear water we floated was low, lower than any of us anticipated given all the flooding earlier in the spring. Thankfully, our kayaks coasted over most of the Huzzah’s low points and when we hit gravel, it was an excuse to walk in the cool water and drag our vessels onto the rocky shore.
Those breaks allowed us time to reapply sunscreen, take deep swigs of cold water, and to bite into cherries so sweet and so red. Time to relinquish counting the seconds, the minutes, the next step, the deadline, the action plan.
As Bertrand Russell wrote in his 1932 essay, “In Praise of Idleness”:
“There was formerly a capacity for light-heartedness and play which has been to some extent inhibited by the cult of efficiency. The modern man thinks that everything ought to be done for the sake of something else, and never for its own sake.”
Eighty-seven years later, here we remain, still learning to balance work with leisure. Still learning how to forsake productivity for a little fun.