Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Have You Ever Had to Paddle Your Own Canoe? If Not, Give it a Try!

Have you ever paddled a canoe? Having lived decades in Montana before relocating to Indiana, I had several opportunities to paddle a canoe. I can tell you this... the further out of the water your bow is, the harder the canoe is to control. There's a certain technique that is required in order to paddle a canoe comfortably and to reach your destination with the least amount of effort.

Sometimes, a canoe can feel quite unstable. You can get out into water that is less than calm and the canoe will begin to rock. Sometimes, relationships can feel that way too -- you get out into deeper waters and then begin to sense the instability. If there's one thing I've learned in life, it's that not everyone is going to be supportive of the decisions you make, the endeavors you undertake, or the direction you paddle your canoe. Let me explain by sharing a poem by Sarah T. Bolton, an American poet who is best known for her poem "Paddle Your Own Canoe" (1850).

Voyager upon life's sea,
To yourself be true,
And where'er your lot may be
Paddle your own canoe.
Never, though the winds may rave,
Falter nor look back;
But upon the darkest wave
Leave a shining track.

Nobly dare the wildest storm,
Stem the hardest gale;
Brave of heart and strong of arm,
You will never fail.
When the world is cold and dark,
Keep an aim in view,
And toward the beacon mark
Paddle your own canoe.

Every wave that bears you on
To the silent shore,
From its sunny course has gone
To return no more.
Then let not an hour's delay
Cheat you of your due;
But, while it is called today,
Paddle your own canoe.

If your birth denied you wealth,
lofty state and power;
Honest fame and hardy health
Are a better dower.
But if these will not suffice,
Golden gain pursue;
And, to win the glittering prize,
Paddle your own canoe.

Would you wrest the wreath of fame
From the hand of fate?
Would you write a deathless name
With the good and the great?
Would you bless your fellow-men?
Heart and soul imbue
With the holy task, and then
Paddle your own canoe.

Would you crush the tyrant wrong,
In the world's free fight?
With a spirit brave and strong,
Battle for the right;
And to break the chains that bind
The many to the few,
To enfranchise slavish mind -
Paddle your own canoe.

Nothing great is lightly won,
Nothing won is lost;
Every good deed nobly done
Will repay the cost.
Leave to Heaven in humble trust
All you will to do;
But if you succeed you must
Paddle your own canoe.

That poem is known all over the world and has been translated into many different languages. Generally, those who paddle their own canoe are considered independent and self-sufficient.

Sarah T. Bolton -- who has been called the "Pioneer Poet Laureate of Indiana" -- was an activist for women's rights and worked with Robert Dale Owen during Indiana's 1850–1851 Constitutional Convention to include the recognition of women's property rights. Her husband, Nathaniel Bolton, co-founded the first newspaper in Indianapolis, the Gazette, and was Indiana State Librarian from 1851 to 1854.

There are certainly those who have never had to truly paddle their own canoe in life, and therefore have missed out on the benefits and blessings that can come from doing so. I've had many opportunities in life to paddle my own canoe... to be independent and self-sufficient, and not always by choice. These days, I prefer to partner with my lovely wife on life's path -- who is supportive, understanding, and a blessing beyond measure to me, and I definitely let God take my canoe's (my life's) oars and direct the way. I've reached a season in life with calm waters, easy paddling, and a beautiful view.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso