Monday, June 07, 2004

It's tempting to think of a canoe as a marriage in microcosm. After all, two people in a canoe are joined together on an uncertain course where the actions of each affect them both in ways that can be predictable, but are often totally unexpected. A lot of the time you can coast, but obstacles will come up, and if you can't bring teamwork and communication to bear on them, you'll end up in the drink.

But that's about as far as I want to take it, lest we end up in Promise Keepers territory. When a man and a woman canoe together, the man usually ends up in back, partly because canoeing falls under the banner of generalized "boy stuff" along with hunting, camping, catching frogs, and, I don't know, pissing off of bridges, so in your average boy/girl couple, the boy's more likely to have been canoeing. And paddling a canoe is much more about the arms and shoulders than, say, a kayak, which involves the hips and abs, making it a little more female-friendly. And whoever's in the back of the boat ends up steering.

It's not for sexist reasons that my favorite part of this weekend's trip on the Niangua River was when Christie stuffed the drybag in the bow for padding and stretched out backwards in the seat, enjoying the view upstream while I worried about what was ahead of us. It's more that as hard as it is to improve of the oldest mountains on the continent looking more or less the way they looked before the first white man set eyes on them, every landscape looks better with Christie's smile in it.

Of course, Christie's not the kind of girl who could be happy if she never got to drive, so I took my turn in the front of the boat while she drove. Unfortunately, I'm so used to driving the boat that I kept trying to make the canoe go where I wanted it to, in spite of the fact that I didn't know Christie's plan, couldn't even see her, and was in the front of the boat, where I couldn't effectively steer even if I had the necessary information. But I'm strong enough that I could pull us enough out of line that Christie couldn't compensate for me, which resulted in the quote of the day, from Christie:

"Stop helping me!"

Of course, that was immediately followed by, "Don't worry, I'll get us unstuck as soon as I finish my sandwich. I just can't focus when I'm eating."

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