Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sea kayaking, running, be-ing...and the BIG difference between "enjoying" and "valuing" the moment.

"Joan, we're almost there...and our 'table' is ready."
First of all (simply can't resist it), here's, Fine dining, Part 2. (You can find "Part 1" here.)

So you want to impress someone special with a simple, but elegant, meal "out" this Christmas season? Last time, as you may recall, it was a night paddle by sea kayak to a tiny and isolated Gulf Island beach for some homemade pea soup...that, admittedly, the "someone special" made. This time, it was a day hike to (another) isolated Gulf Island beach for a whole wheat bun, spread with some crunchy peanut butter...again, that the "someone special" whipped up for us. And, oh yes, a small thermos each of chai latte. Joan made that too. But it was my idea to go "out" for lunch. :)

One of the wonderful things about hiking is that, as with most self-propelled outdoor activities, there is opportunity to think and reflect. As we followed the trails today, we were thinking about enjoying vs valuing - whatever it is that you're doing in any given moment of time. It was an interesting conversation.

Who needs a fancy tablecloth? The "Beach" theme is just so...natural!
The coming year will bring some changes to our lives as we transition from vocations we have cherished and found meaning-filled for a very long time now. Reflecting back over the years, I recently said to some of the special folks that we work with, "We've enjoyed every moment." After our conversation on the trail today, I realize that that's not entirely true. There were, indeed, moments (and experiences) that could not be described as enjoyable...but each moment and each experience was incredibly valuable, in one way or another. That's an important distinction because it calls us to honour time, that most precious of resources.

Here are a couple of examples.

I love sea kayaking, but, it's had its moments. Back in the summer of 1975, we were living and working in the townsite of Waterton Lakes National Park in southwest Alberta. It was May, in the Rocky Mountains. There was still a snow drift in the car port and the ice had just broken up on the Lake a few days previously. As soon as we unpacked our stuff and shovelled out the car port, I launched my Femat TR 2 kayak - I just couldn't wait to paddle after the long road trip from Toronto! Joan was on the shore watching and I attempted to hold my kayak on its "edge" - a new "manoeuvre".

Full of youthful bravado and quite inexperienced in the "narrow boat", I wasn't able to hold the brace and ended up capsizing in the frigid water. Upside down, it seemed to take forever to get my spray cover off. It was one of those moments when you have a sense that you're not going to be around to show up for the first day of work after all! I did free myself from the cockpit, however, and swam to the shore, thankfully just a few metres away, towing the kayak. We looked a rather dismal couple as we carried the kayak through the town, the new student minister drenched and somewhat hypothermic. So much for dignified "first impressions" with the members of our summer parish community. Those moments of kayaking, upside down in icy water, were not enjoyable...but, in retrospect, they sure were valuable. I learned an important lesson about focus and humility - rather important elements of sea kayaking.

And then there was an experience of this past summer that I've already posted on here and here. We were on the summit of Mayer, one of the Scottish "Munros". Gale force winds suddenly (it seemed) blew in, torrential rains came down, and lightning and thunder put on a great show all around us. I can tell you that there were several moments when we would have traded it all to be back home, sitting in front of the television, with a big bag of rippled potato chips between us, watching this little drama unfold - on someone else! Although there were occasional moments on that hike that were not particularly enjoyable - they were valuable in terms of the experience, lessons learned...and the memories.

And such is life for most of us. Every moment counts. Having said that, not every moment and every experience is enjoyable - far from it - but every moment and every experience can be seen to have meaning and should be valued, if for no other reason, the lessons learned. So often, it is in the midst of life's most difficult experiences, that we discover hidden strengths and abilities, and therein lies something very valuable. Enjoyment and value - there's a big difference.

Every leaf on the forest floor, like every moment, has meaning and value.
Another reason to treasure (and live fully in) each "moment" that we are fortunate to have.


PS Again, thanks folks for all for the additional comments and perspectives on an issue related to cold water paddling in the last posting. Appreciated and helpful.


  1. Ah yes, our icy mountain waters that don't thaw until almost summer - they do tend to make immersion memorable! As you say, Duncan, a "valuable" lesson, if not completely enjoyable. ;) Gen.

  2. Glad to see you back on the trails but watch those tendons. I love your dining table. Just as if you moved it and placed it in such an appropriate spot. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

  3. Good blog, and a great way to look at life. I think enjoyment of an experience happens in that exact moment but we don't value the experience until it has passed and we reflect back on it. I am sure you weren't "valuing the moment" while hanging upside down in frigid waters LOL
    Thanks for this, something to definitely think about.

  4. Hi Joan and Duncan,
    Beautiful pictures and beautiful words. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I will be sending you a letter soon(in the mail).
    Jen from High River, Alberta.

  5. Hi Gen, I know you won't believe it, but the water is cold here too - so we try to stay "right side up"!

    Thanks for that, Anon. Yeah, the table was tough to carry through the woods but we got it there. ;) (Achilles is doing well.)

    Thanks L, good point. Enjoyment is more immediate, value comes later. That's so true.

    Thanks Jen, always appreciate your words and look forward to hearing from you. Duncan.

  6. I just read about making every moment a celebration which includes both enjoyable and valuable moments.