Dearest Readers,

Yesterday was my birthday and I got the best birthday present ever. I got to go for a canoe paddle on the river.

Paddling rivers is one of my favourite things to do in the world and each summer my father and 2 of our good friends (another father-daughter team) do a trip. This year, however, we didn’t get to go on our annual expedition and I really felt the loss. I would walk by the Yukon River, which is about a 3-minute walk from where I live, look at the moving water and feel a sense of longing so deep it can hardly be described.

So when my friend said, “How about we take you out for a paddle on your BD?” I was more than game.

Since it was my birthday I had spoken to my parents earlier in the day. When I told my father about the stretch of water we’d be doing he suddenly got cautious. “That’s fast moving water,” he said, “It can be really tricky.” He warned me to be careful.

I’m a pretty good paddler. I’ve paddled lots of flat water and done some pretty big white water but I’ve always been in the bow of the canoe on the river trips. I still don’t feel like I know exactly what I’m doing when the water gets big and my dad and I have had some scary moments. I started to feel nervous about what was supposed to be a leisurely afternoon paddle.

My friend’s partner reassured me. “The water isn’t that fast,” he said. “I wouldn’t send you out there if I didn’t think you could do it.” Okay then! Let’s do it.

We set off in mid-afternoon with the sun shining and the wind at our backs. What a stunning day. How thankful I was feeling! Here I was, nearly four decades later in the place of my birth, celebrating Life in the most peaceful and enjoyable way.

Then we hit the canyon.

My heart started pumping hard and I concentrated on steering the boat. Above us was a bridge with people on it. I knew one of them. I looked up and smiled and hooted took my paddle out of the water. My friend in the bow did the same. The boat lurched forward. I remembered I was supposed to be steering. “I need you to paddle,” I said to my friend (as calmly as I could). The boat swayed. We righted ourselves and dug in. In minutes we were through the trickiest part. I relaxed. We’d made it!

That temptation to show off, I tellya. It’s gotten me into trouble in the past. “Look at me! I’m something!” Wham! Reminds me of that Paul Simon song “Gumboots” from his Graceland album: “Believing I had supernatural powers/I slammed into a brick wall.” Yup. Been there. Done that.

Gotta be careful. Got to focus on the action not how the action will be perceived. Got to let go of trying to impress people. Sigh.

But despite that little moment of ego-tripping I managed to steer the canyon successfully and that feels like a victory for me. At first I was kind of mad that my dad had put the fear into me. But after we made it through safely I was glad. If he hadn’t given me that warning, which put my guard way up, I might be writing about a river swim I took yesterday. In my actual birthday suit.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Today I will celebrate my victories and rein in my shortcomings. I don’t need to impress anybody but myself.