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“Kayaking for dummies"

Patty Mondore
Award of Outstanding Merit - $1,000

Patty Mondore is a published author and singer/song writer from Jamesville, NY. Her books include A Good Paddling, To Love, Honor and OH BOY, Proclaim His Praise in the Islands, and Perennial Faith.  She is a contributing writer for two newspapers (The Thousand Islands Sun and the Syracuse Good Newspaper).  Patty is the Pediatric Residency Program Coordinator at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York.  She is a Houghton College graduate with a Masters Degree from Syracuse University.  She and her husband Bob have co-produced several nature music videos set to Patty's original inspirational songs.  Her column, River-Lations, recently received the National Dove Foundation's highest 5-dove rating.  You can find out more about Patty on her website at www.gold-mountain.com/Patty.html.

It was beautiful but oh so windy! The whitecaps were steadily pounding the shore and it reminded me more of the ocean than the River.  It was one of those days when anyone with brains would have known better than to be out in a kayak (and, yes, we all know where this story is going).  So, I put on my lifejacket, dropped the little boat into the water on the lea side of the dock, and then pushed myself out into the crashing waves.  To my defense, what I was planning wasn’t as stupid as you might think.  On rough days I have learned that I don’t need to miss an opportunity to enjoy some quality time in my kayak. I just have to be a little more creative to do so.  I headed in the direction the wind was blowing and guessed I was experiencing what surfers do, as I coasted along essentially riding the waves.  All I needed to do was keep myself pointed in the right direction which, on a windy day, is the nearest inlet.  It took very little time to get there (getting back, of course, would be an entirely different issue).  As soon as I turned and steered myself around the corner and into the secluded bay, the waves completely disappeared.  As I drifted further into the bay, I realized it was completely protected from the wind and I was now paddling on glassy calm water.   I have gone to the bay many times just to enjoy the wildlife and peacefulness of that protected area.  But the contrast today between the River and the bay was dramatic (it kind of reminded me of that story about Jesus calming the stormy seas).  When I neared the back of the bay I saw the familiar cattails and bulrushes and could hear the songs of countless birds nesting there, oblivious of the near gale-like conditions so close by. But where I had previously thought the bay came to an end, I noticed a small pathway winding deeper into the shoreline through the bulrushes.

Actually, watery pathways through the cattails are a very common River sight even visible from the highway that follows the seaway trail. I had always thought it would be great fun to explore some of those winding labyrinths in a kayak. I just hadn’t realized I had a mini version so close to home.  I paddled through the narrow passageway, heading deeper into the thickly wooded mainland. The air was filled with the sounds of birds, crickets, tree frogs and other wildlife. The trail I was following was now no wider than my extended paddles and the trees formed a dome above me that nearly cut off the sky and sun. 


For a moment, I was reminded of a movie we had recently seen of a man kayaking in the Amazon who was attacked by a crocodile. I quickly reminded myself that the river doesn’t have crocodiles and continued on.  I finally reached the end of my winding trail.  I turned the last bend and was greeted by a burst of brilliant yellow wild irises in the center of a small circle of bulrushes surrounded by trees, lush foliage, and the songs of hundreds of birds and singing insects.  It was so utterly beautiful and peaceful that I didn't even want to disturb it with the sounds of my paddles, so I just sat perfectly still taking in the wonder of this protected sanctuary.


"Sanctuary, indeed" I thought to myself. I had discovered another River treasure - a gloriously peaceful little sanctuary which, at this moment, seemed to be there solely for my own private viewing. Perhaps someone else might have happened upon it before me (for that matter, someone else probably owns it), but right then I felt as though it was all there just for me.  I sat there, in the stillness, and tried to silently soak in the peace and the beauty of this amazing place. And to think that I would never have found it if it weren't for the wind and the crashing waves that drove me there!


Now, isn't that just like life?  We have to face some pretty blustery days now and then, and at times it feels as though our difficulties are crashing down on us like waves. But what I've also come to know is that sometimes it is in those very storms of life that we discover peace – a place of perfect peace.  One of my favorite verses (perfect for kayakers who don't know when to say no) is, "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!  Trust in the LORD always, for the LORD GOD is the eternal Rock" (Isaiah 26:3-4).


In the tough times, we need a sanctuary to run to -- a rock to rest secure on.  And in the tough times we find that both a sanctuary and the Rock have been there for us all along.  When we run for the sanctuary that we find in God our Rock, we discover he has been waiting to meet us there. And sometimes, like today, he even shows up with flowers. "And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you…" (Lk. 12:28).


The moral of the story for me is that God even uses storms to bring blessings into the lives of all who put their trust in him.  We have been assured "that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them" (Rom. 8:28).  Everything! Even windy days for kayakers who don't have the brains to know when to stay away from the River. 



Published in the July 1, 2009 issue of the Thousand Islands Sun;  Alexandria Bay, NY.

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