Eddies for Outdoorsmen: Inspiration from Nature and Outdoor Sports
Eddies for Outdoorsmen is a collection of 78 short stories and vignettes related to nature and outdoor recreation, especially canoeing, which is my favorite sport. Some of the articles were inspired by the intriguing beauties and marvels of nature. Some of them are the result of stupid mistakes I have made or lessons that I have learned the hard way. Some are the rambling thoughts of an outdoorsman. Others are fond memories of outdoor experiences I have had. But they are more than stories and facts.
I hope you will find here not only appreciation for nature, but appreciation for life. In addition to tips for safer canoeing, you will find tips for better living. Some articles will inspire you and some will leave you with questions to ponder.
We need to take time to smell the flowers and listen to the birds. We also need to listen to our hearts, check our compass and choose our destination. After reading each of these short articles, take a few minutes to reflect on your own life’s experiences, let your mind wonder and listen to that little voice inside you. I do not have the answers to very many of life’s issues. I can only prompt you to think about the issues. I hope this book will help you to enjoy the eddies you find along your way.
Eddies for Outdoorsmen can be ordered directly from me for $7.00 each. Just send a check to: Henry Youndt, 305 Laurel Road, East Earl, PA 17519
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I am somewhat of a white-water enthusiast. Although I prefer to stay away from the more dangerous water, I do enjoy working with the river currents to maneuver my boat around obstacles. As we white-water boaters navigate a river, we look for eddies. Down river from a rock or other obstacle there will be an eddy where the water is swirling and running upstream. The boater can drive his boat into a suitable eddy and with the help of the currents he can quickly turn the boat around and stop, facing upstream. Here in the eddy the boater can rest and relax while the water rushes by on all sides. Here he can pause and enjoy the beauty of the river. Here he can stand by while fellow boaters test their skills in the rapids. From here he can study the river and plan his next maneuvers.
On one canoe trip I recall coming upon a pair of canoeists standing knee deep in rushing water, struggling desperately with a swamped canoe. About ten yards downstream from them was a small eddy from a submerged rock. I spun my canoe into the eddy and stopped. The eddy was so small it was virtually hidden by my sixteen-foot boat, but it was strong enough to do the job. It must have looked as though some mystical power was holding my boat in position against the current. As the men in front of me struggled to pull their boat from the raging current, I sat quietly in my canoe, using the handle end of my paddle as a hook to retrieve their gear as it floated by. One of the pair looked at me in amazement and exclaimed, “How in the world are you doing that?”
Eddy turns are a skill that every white-water enthusiast should master, not only for the sake of safety, but in order to enjoy the river to its fullest. On the river of life we also need to find the eddies. All of us need to find some quiet time when we can rest and relax as the world rushes by on all sides. We need time to observe our situation, reflect on the past and plan for the future. Where can we find these eddies? Naturally, vacations can be a time of rest and relaxation. But we also need to stop in the smaller, more frequent eddies. A supervisor I once worked for had a forty-five minute commute to and from work each day. He said he liked having that time alone to reflect on the day’s events and plan for the next day. Things like jogging or walking the dog can provide us with eddies. Many religious people set aside a time each day for meditation and prayer. Making good use of the eddies on the river of life will help us cope with life’s difficulties, maintain our sanity and enjoy life to the fullest. Are you finding enough eddies along your way?
Bail Water or Sink
My first canoe camping experience was a trip on the upper Delaware. My friends Manny and Sam invited me and my brother Dean for a few days of paddling through this beautiful area.
As we approached the area known as The Hawk’s Nest, we could see a series of large waves. I got out my movie camera and filmed Manny and Sam as the rode majestically over the waves. Then they pulled to the side and I gave the camera to Manny so he could film Dean and I doing the same.
Being amateurs, we did what most amateurs do. We paddled hard and gathered speed as we approached the waves. Our bow plowed into the first wave and buckets of water spilt over the gunnels adding fifty pounds or more to our load. There was no time for bailing. The waves were one right after the other. So we carried the extra weight with us into the second wave. More buckets of water poured into our canoe. Now we carried even more weight as we plunged into the third wave.
With each successive wave our boat sank deeper and deeper into the water till the only part that could be seen was a small deck plate at the tip of the bow. Dean and I sat in water up to our waists as we paddled toward shore and directly toward our friends with the movie camera, who seemed to be enjoying the experience more than we were. As soon as the bow of our submerged canoe struck the shore, the current flipped it over and we went for the swim we so much deserved.
I’ve done a lot of canoeing since that and I can’t count the times that waves have spilt over my gunnels. When this happens I have a choice. I can carry the extra weight with me or I can bail it out at my earliest opportunity. I don’t need to tell you which is the smartest thing to do. Carrying the extra weight slows my progress and causes me to work harder. It also puts me at greater risk when passing through turbulent water. But sometimes I just don’t feel like bothering with that little bit of water sloshing around in the bottom of my boat.
Sometimes we carry with us the weight of anger and resentment from past experiences. This emotional baggage makes it more difficult for us to cope with the problems we face day by day. It may cause us to experience even more anger. If we continue to carry these feelings with us they may eventually overwhelm us. We may become suicidal, violent or dependent on drugs. Medical science tells us that negative emotions like anger, jealousy and resentment effect how our bodies produce hormones. Hormones control the function of our organs. So negative emotions can make us ill, or weaken our immune system so that other things can make us ill. Bitterness and resentment can destroy us. When we forgive others we do ourselves a really big favor.
Are you carrying any water in your canoe?
Lean Toward the Rock
Most of us who do down-river canoeing, at some time find ourselves being swept broadside toward a rock. You see it coming, you try to maneuver around it. But it’s too little, too late. You know you’re going to hit. Our natural reaction is to lean away from the rock. That’s a reaction based on fear and it only makes the problem worse.
When you lean away from the rock, the upstream side of the canoe will be deep in the water and the downstream side will be high. As the boat strikes the rock the downstream side will be pushed even higher, forcing the upstream side deeper into the water. As the boat stops, the current catches the upstream edge and pulls it under. The boat capsizes with the open top facing the current. In this position the moving water can create tons of pressure pinning the canoe against the rock and sometimes wrapping the canoe around the rock.
On the other hand, if you lean downstream when you see a collision coming, the upstream side of the canoe will be high. As the boat stops against the rock, the current will be forced under the boat, raising it up and helping to free it from the rock. So when you see you can’t avoid hitting a rock, don’t react in fear. Lean toward the rock.
When you need to go through adversity in life, face it bravely. Fear usually makes things worse. In the Bible, James tells us to consider it joy when we face trials, because this helps us develop perseverance. Franklin Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” The twenty-third Psalm says, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” Lean toward the rock.
Against the Current
I’ve canoed with groups of amateur canoeists and with groups of experienced white-water enthusiasts. One difference I notice is that the amateurs usually go faster. They have a tendency to point their boats downstream and paddle as if the water isn’t moving fast enough. On the contrary, the more experienced boaters frequently turn their boats upstream and play in the currents. They stop in the eddies to rest or regroup. They ferry from eddy to eddy as they explore the whole river. They take time to test their skills against the rapids or to surf on a wave. It seems they want to stay on the water as long as possible while the amateurs rush toward their take-out point.
On the river of life we have the same kind of choices. We can allow ourselves to be swept along with the current and do what everyone else does. Or, we can turn our bow into the current and choose our own course. Are you taking time to paddle against the currents that try to control your life? Have you stopped in the eddies to appreciate all the wonderful things the Creator has put here for us? Have you thanked Him lately? Or are you one of those just rushing toward the end?
Two Kinds of Dogs
Some dogs seem to be always eager to do things for their master. Whether it be trailing a rabbit or jumping into a lake to retrieve a stick, they will do whatever he asks. They love to catch a Frisbee or play tug-of -war with an old sock. They always want to be near their master and interacting with him in some way. Other dogs seem intent on getting away from their owners and pursuing their own interests. They constantly strain at their leashes. These dogs must be kept on leashes or they will run off and get into trouble.
Which kind of dog would you like to be? I would like to be the kind that wags its tail with eager anticipation whenever it sees the Master. I would be one that runs to meet Him and walks by His side. I want to trust my Master and rely on Him to supply all my needs. I want to live in the Master’s house where He hands me food from His table. When He sits down to relax, I’ll snuggle up beside Him and lay my head on His lap. I’ll be so happy because He has forgotten the times I ran away and He did not disown me when I bit His son. When He rubs my ears and strokes my fur, I know He cares for me. In the evening, when it’s time to sleep, I want to curl up at the Master’s feet. What kind of dog do you want to be?
The Good and the Ugly
It was one of those days with a clear blue sky and bright sunshine that beg you to do something outdoors. I was out with my super 8mm camera filming the Florida landscape when I came upon a beautiful scene by a small canal with palm trees and tropical plants. There was one problem, however. The water had an ugly dark brown color. Everything else was so fresh, clean looking and picturesque. So I decided to shoot some film in spite of the nasty-looking water.
When I got the film developed I was surprised to see that the camera had captured something I had missed completely. In the water was a beautiful reflection of blue sky, green plants and palm trees. The colors in the reflection were so strong that you couldn’t tell the actual color of the water.
I wonder how many times I miss something pleasant and wonderful because my attention is focused on something ugly.
To Ride the Waves
When the pressures of life seem overwhelming or the pace is too rapid, it’s then I need to find an eddy, turn one-hundred-eighty degrees and stop. I need to look around at the magnificent world our creator has given us. I need to contemplate our balanced ecosystem where plants provide oxygen, food, fuel and shelter for the animal kingdom which returns carbon dioxide, nutrients and cultivation. If ever I doubt that there is a God, I need to look more closely at the things He created. When I consider the flytraps and the trees, or when I watch a vulture soaring in the breeze or a honey bee gathering nectar, I am reminded that this was planed by a very intelligent God. If ever I wonder whether God loves me, I need to look at a flower or watch a sunset and wait quietly for the stars to appear. I need to listen to that quiet voice inside of me. I need to contemplate what he did for me on the cross.
When I read the Bible, I am amazed at the wisdom in this book. In addition to telling us of God’s love, it gives us guidance for life’s conflicts, solutions for our social problems and hope in time of despair. It teaches us how to prevent diseases and helps us understand our natural desires. If mankind, two thousand to six thousand years ago had this much wisdom without divine inspiration, then we are certainly evolving backwards.
God teaches us and reveals himself to us through the Bible and through nature. He speaks to us through that inner voice He placed in our hearts. If we listen we find a source of all we really need.
When my strength is renewed and my confidence is restored, I push my bow into the current, lean downstream and peel out of the eddy. I rejoin the main stream, ready to ride the waves and navigate around the rocks.