Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Take The Plunge

A few years ago I was paddling an unfamiliar series of lakes in order to access Killarney Provincial Park in Northern Ontario. The map said I had to portage around The Plunge Falls. That name alone had me on high alert. Additionally, the day was getting late and a thunderstorm was moving in. The last thing I wanted to do was miss my portage and take “The Plunge.” So I was a bit like a gazelle in lion country, listening for the roar of falls, looking for my portage trail and anxious about the incoming electrical storm at my back. I was using all of my senses, constantly scanning for danger and revising my route-to-safety plan as my environment changed. I had the loan of an island cabin if I could make it there before the storm so I was pushing hard and reluctant to stop and set up camp. But I knew I’d have to get off the water if the lightening started.

After about six hours on the water and the non-stop stresses of the impending falls and storm, I became full of doubt. I doubted I had been right about how long it would take me to paddle to the cabin. I doubted I knew where I was on the map. I doubted my ability to do a solo paddling trip like this with any kind of proficiency, ever. I just totally doubted myself.

I truly thought I would have reached the cabin after six hours of paddling. And yet, I hadn't portaged The Plunge Falls yet. And then, there it was! No, not the falls. I saw the island and the cabin that was my destination for the night. I stared at the map in disbelief! I had taken the Plunge and not even known it!

The Plunge Falls is still on the map I use today. And even though I've paddled this trip several times since, I have yet to encounter those falls. I don't know if this is an error or a mapmaker’s idea of a joke. I just know that I have a new perspective on the old saying, “Take the plunge.”

  1. Whatever the plunge might be, it is never as bad as we anticipate.
  2. When you're focused on something as an impending threat, you lose your orientation, even if you have a map.
  3. The language we use to describe something can create more concern than the thing itself.

I made it to the cabin before the storm. I made it to the cabin without flying over the falls. That night was one of the most beautiful electrical storms I've ever seen. And I got to experience it high and dry with warm food and drink in my belly.

Coach's Challenge:
Here's a bit of a research project for you. I've given you enough hints. Find The Plunge Falls I apparently went over and email your research details to me. Please put "The Plunge Falls" in your email subject line. If you've found the right falls, I'll give you a free coaching session and and a big fat mention.

I Don't Know Why I Swallowed The Fly: My Fly Fishing Rookie Season by Jessica Maxwell was a gift I could not put down once I started reading. While describing her new-found passion for fly fishing, Maxwell also reflects on time, space, nature, her relationship with her father, and the "fishiness" of a stretch of river water. For years I've been telling my friends that fishing is as good as, if not better than, sex. Maxwell gets to this point too.

“Society is like a lawn, where every roughness is smoothed, every bramble eradicated, and where the eye is delighted by the smiling verdure of a velvet surface. He, however, who would study nature in its wildness and variety, must plunge into the forest, must explore the glen, must stem the torrent, and dare the precipice.” ~Washington Irving

“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.” ~Elwyn Brooks White

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction.” ~Albert Einstein

“I have an existential map; it has 'you are here' written all over it.” ~Steven Wright