This morning when we left the house it was dark. We wound down the hill, Diamondhead direction to Hui Nalu Canoe Club at Maunalua Bay on the other side of the island. I’ve been on the road with intermittent landings in New Mexico, nowhere near warm seas. It was to be my first time paddling in months. We have a number of paddlers for a 7AM Sunday morning paddle, several canoes worth. I’m happy to be in Jeff’s canoe. He’s one of the best at surfing currents. After our New Year’s Eve debacle about six years ago, we are not allowed to surf in the six-man canoes; still, steering involves the agility and body/ocean knowledge to ride whatever is out there. We go out past the blinker buoy the water turned turquoise and clear. Beautiful. And because it’s relatively flat we keep going straight out past the point to the deep blue. Those waters are ultramarine.
(I look up “ultramarine” in the Compact Oxford English Dicitionary and discover that “ultramarine” means “1 a brilliant deep blue pigment originally obtained from lapis lazuli. 2. A brilliant deep blue color.—ORIGIN from obsolete Italian azzurro oltramarino ‘azure from overseas’ (because the lapis lazuli was imported) from Latin ultramarinus ‘beyond the sea’.)
Yes. It’s ultramarine. And deep.
Then we turn toward Diamondhead and ride the blue. When we turn back we race. This means picking up the time and intensity of the stroke, and focusing. Focusing means to look ahead, so that your vision places your canoe ahead of the rest.
I am in seat two behind an inexperienced stroker. I notice that when we can hear the competition coming up alongside (we hear the person calling the stroke changes in seat three) she turns. When she turns her stroke deteriorates. When the stroke deteriorates, everyone else’s stroke suffers, because we follow her lead. I also notice that when she looks anywhere besides directly ahead the canoe falters. I deliberate whether to say anything or not because I am not the steersman, the person in seat six, who directs the canoe. Then, because we’re falling back, I do.
“Focus! Look straight ahead. Your eyes carry energy. You are the canoe’s eyes.”
It’s almost magic the way the canoe responds.
And this becomes a lesson for me, something the stroker and the spirit of the canoe is teaching me. Our attention literally goes in the direction we look or spend our time.
And p.s. and/or by the way, when we near the blinker buoy we stop to enjoy a pod of dolphins. They leap and arc in and above the water.
December 7, 2008