Things are constantly changing around us, within us, and because of us. Sometimes these changes are obsolete, but the most obvious changes I find, are when we come back to revisit a place.
Putting back on the White Salmon River, after months of challenging my paddling in Chile, it was clear to see the improvements in my kayaking. The ways I was looking at these same rapids was much different than before. Features that once intimidated me, seemed so small and harmless, and a run that was pushing my capabilities had become a flowing playground. Revisiting rivers is so exciting to see the leaps of growth in skills.
Not only am I returning to a river I love so much, with greater skills to navigate the river; I am returning home to my same room and amazing roommates, my same friends, similar routines, similar jobs, but I am far from the same person. So like revisiting a river, I can see all the places in my life that I’ve grown over the course of my journey through Chile and back.
One of the biggest lessons Chile taught me, is to throw time to the side and enjoy your present moment. Easy when you’re on a three month long ‘vacay’ with nowhere in particular to be, and nothing particularly to do, eh? Turns out, this relaxed way of life is just as easy even with the responsibilities of a job, paying bills, keeping up on life’s mundane maintenances, connecting with friends, and making time for yourself. It’s a matter of not over-scheduling ourselves. I am the guiltiest of the the guilty when it comes to over-extending myself beyond the energy I actually have to give, which has left me, too often, failing to uphold my end of a promise. Which in turn, has created a lot of unnecessary stress in my life. But with this Chilean mindset of “no hurry, no rush”, I don’t feel the need to fill my schedule, and I let the joy of my present moment do just that and really, the flow of the universe is all that it’s cracked up to be. With a lot less stress involved, less hurrying around, less broken promises, and only more quality time with the people that matter, things are feeling like they just keep falling into place. Leaving and coming back has also put into perspective what is truly important to me, and those things and people are what I’m choosing to fill my days with. Setting boundaries to protect my precious time has served me well since being home. Knowing where I want to devote my time to, communicating those needs to the necessary people, then, being patient with the flow of things, has set me up for a pretty rad summer with ample opportunities to do the things I hope to do. And saying no, can feel oh, so good. And that is something Kaylan last summer, never knew.
Chile also served as a huge inspiration to me in terms of river stewardship. In Chile I experienced over ten pristine rivers. And I’m talking pristine in terms of the whitewater and the scenery, but even more importantly, almost all these rivers showed to be extremely valuable resources. Almost every place I kayaked in Chile, it was safe to drink straight from the river–especially as a local. I also saw how dramatically influenced these small communities are by the river. Dependent on these rivers for water, irrigation, tourism, escape from the beating summer sun and lack of ozone these rivers need protecting. Not that I hadn’t appreciated the rivers back home, but my time connecting with these places and the people that live along their shores, has really sparked the need in me to not only enjoy these rivers, but to devote energy to saving these precious resources.
So here I am, in the same house I was a nanny for last summer, but now waiting on the new addition to family, Logan, to wake up from a nap, while Piper, the cutie I spent all last summer with, is at school. And I’m filling these hours of his naps with studying rivers, conservation practices, and practicing my Spanish. And I’ll probably go to the river today, but unlike Kaylan from last summer, that’s my only plan after work. Not only do I have better boundaries with my scheduling, and have a bigger picture of where I want to devote my energy, but I’m wearing self-confidence like I never have before. I’m in love with this life that I’m creating and all the changes that come with it. The changes I cannot control, I welcome with a smile, and the changes I am conciously working towards, I promise my patience and persistence.
So as I’m committing to another summer here in the Gorge, I recognize and I am thankful for all the shifts that have occurred within me and around me. I also know, some things haven’t changed, and that is comforting–like that spring time here is the absolute best. This journey I’m embarking may feel similar to last summer in a lot of aspects, but with my growth as a person, it’s easy to know that this summer will be nothing like the last, simply better as I continue to find new ways to navigate this river of life.