The bright blue of a warm July day yielded to red and orange, which had patiently been awaiting their turn to color the sky. I walked down to the dock where a canoe was bobbing in the gentle waters. It was getting a bit chilly but I had my sweatshirt, a lifejacket and the eagerness that occasionally comes to city dwellers when they embark on an outdoor adventure. The plan was to spend an hour or so cruising along the shoreline, discovering, exploring, thinking and relaxing. Nature does funny things to plans. I haven’t had much experience with canoes but I am fairly coordinated and have good enough balance so I wasn’t terribly concerned when the wind picked up.
I pushed off from the dock with my paddle and began my journey. It wasn’t long before I realized that my plan of a peaceful, solitary canoe ride would feel more like I was competing for a gold medal in Olympic rowing. The difference was for me the finish line didn’t represent a gold medal, it meant that I would be able to see my friends again!
Evidently I have dramatic thoughts when floating away from shore, wondering if I have the strength to make it back. I immediately knew that my voyage would need to be abandoned as the winds began howling and the dock shrank. I began to turn the canoe around but the wind kept catching the side and returning the canoe to its original position. The harder I tried the more exhausted I became. I really could have used a break but rivers don’t believe in breaks, and rest is not something they offer those who traverse them, unless your destination is downstream. Mine wasn’t. I wouldn’t say I panicked but I did have a rush of adrenaline mixed with accelerated thinking as I began considering my options. Yell for help? Maybe. Try again but paddle harder this time? Not a chance. Run aground and walk the canoe back? Shoreline too steep, nowhere to walk. Clearly this bout would be won by the river unless I changed my tactics. Rather than fight the wind and the current at full strength, I decided to try to paddle backward. I would still be fighting both, but the angle of the canoe would lessen their impact.
I began making progress. Encouraged by the momentum, I began paddling harder. With each stroke I imagined the thrill of feeling the dock beneath my feet. I might see my friends again after all! I began moving fairly quickly and was nearly jolted out of my seat when my canoe hit the dock…the neighbor’s dock. After 20 additional yards of paddling I reached the dock at my friend’s cabin. Grateful, I tied the canoe to the dock and went back to the cabin where my friends were getting ready for a board game. The entire adventure had taken less time than it took me to write this account. “Wow you’re back soon” they said. I thought about telling them how I was almost swept to sea and how grateful I was to see them and how grateful they should be to see me. I discovered that tales of valor on the high seas don’t feel as significant on land. So I just smiled and said “Yeah.”
Circumstances can change quickly, turning a peaceful adventure into a struggle to get home. I appreciate the metaphor of the anchor because it can symbolize two very different experiences. For example, when I think of an anchor I think of stability in rough waters. Sometimes the waves are higher than they appeared from shore. In my situation I felt that I couldn’t do justice to my experience if I tried to tell my friends about it. Maybe you are in dangerous waters and no one else knows. Maybe you have been anchored by friends, family or God. In these cases and others, an anchor can be a great thing. In other cases our anchors really prevent us from going where we would like to be. Maybe you would like to explore the open waters, but your anchor, an addiction, unhealthy relationship, fear or any number of other things, keeps you from going where you want to go and being who you want to be. In these cases imagining what life would be like if you could lose the anchor is a worthwhile consideration. To what are you anchored? Do you need to lower or raise your anchor?
My brief journey on the water was a reminder of how powerful nature and circumstances can be. Anchors weigh us down. Whether that is good or bad depends a lot on where we are and where we want to be.