I posted the final post on this blog a few days ago….but the news of Farley Mowat’s recent passing at the age of 92 got me thinking….maybe as Farley once said:
“My canoe is in the Canadian Canoe Museum, which is exactly where it should be. Who knows, maybe someday I can be in it again—either preserved in vodka or properly prepared by a good taxidermist….
Farley believed he was conceived in that same canoe….possibly proving he was the offspring of two true Canadians….remember Pierre Berton is supposed to have said that A true Canadian is one who can make love in a canoe without tipping. (although Philip Chester stated: Anyone can make love in a canoe, it’s a Canadian who knows enough to take out the centre thwart!)
Any way, I thought I would repost this ‘old chestnut’:
I’ve described myself as an old guy at times….I’ve made comments about feeling a few more aches and pains than I used to….forgetting some things like _ _ _ _???? (darn I can’t remember what I was thinking of….LOL LOL)….or being a little hard of hearing (usually more out of covenience than anything else LOL LOL)….I’ve commented about how I feel the extra weight of my wood canvas canoe some mornings (but then that’s a good reminder that I’m still alive LOL LOL).
I hear that a poll in the USA has baby boomers between 57 and 65 seeing themselves as only middle-aged….so I must be young….I’m only 59 after all LOL LOL. Imagine comments like:
Baby boomers say wrinkles aren’t so bad and they’re not that worried about dying. Just don’t call them “old.”
The generation that once powered a youth movement isn’t ready to symbolize the aging of America, even as its first members are becoming eligible for Medicare, the government-funded program which provides health care coverage to the elderly.
A new poll finds three-quarters of all baby boomers still consider themselves middle-aged or younger, and that includes most of the boomers who are ages 57-65.
Younger adults call 60 the start of old age, but baby boomers are pushing that number back, according to the Associated Press-LifeGoesStrong.com poll. The median age they cite is 70. And a quarter of boomers insist you’re not old until you’re 80….
So I can’t be old….50 plus is the new 40….or is that 35….I can’t quite remember LOL LOL….any way, I will have to amend that quote of E.B.White’s that I use now and then:
On age: “For an old man, a canoe is ideal; he need only sit and move his arms.”
I wrote about E. B. White and canoes sometime ago in a blog post here, Reflections On the Outdoors Naturally: E. B. White: The Elements Of The Canoe And The Outdoors In His Life And Writing:
I heard a segment on CBC’s The Sunday Edition with Michael Enright entitledThe Elements of E. B. White. E. B. (Elwyn Brooks) White (1898 – 1985) began his career as a professional writer with the newly founded The New Yorkermagazine in the 1920s. Over the years he produced nineteen books, including collections of essays, the famous children’s books Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web, and the long popular writing textbook The Elements of Style. What struck me in the discussion of E. B. White’s life was his connection to the canoe. Michael Engright spoke with Martha White, E. B. White’s granddaughter and editor of his letters and soon a list of his quotations (in collaboration with Cornell University).
His granddaughter told of his love of the outdoors and how the canoe was a part of this love. She told how he was still paddling a canoe late in life, still able to lift a canoe single-handed up onto his car (which had special rollers attached to make getting the canoe in place easier). I couldn’t help but think of my own father who loved to get out paddling in his kayak, well into his 80s, and how he had similar rollers on his Yakima racks….my Dad insisted on putting his kayak up on his car himself….
….In E.B. White’s Drafts of “Once More to the Lake” (page two) by Richard Nordquist, About.com Guide,http://grammar.about.com/od/writersonwriting/a/ebwlakedrafts_2.htm, comes this:
According to Scott Elledge in E.B. White: A Biography, on July 11, 1981, to celebrate his eighty-first birthday, White lashed a canoe to the top of his car and drove to “the same Belgrade lake where, seventy years before, he had received a green old town canoe from his father, a gift for his eleventh birthday.”
….Unfortunately it appears that the canoe may have also led to E. B. White’s demise as stated in the recollections of Roger Angell of the personal history of his stepfather in Andy: For E. B. White’s readers and family, a sense of trust came easily, as published in The New Yorker, Febuary 14, 2005,http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/02/14/050214fa_fact?currentPage=all:
….one evening in August, 1984, when he came for dinner he complained that he’d knocked his head the day before while unloading a canoe from the roof rack of his car, over at Walker Pond; now he was having trouble knowing exactly where he was or what was happening around him. Carol and I smiled at him. “Yes, that happens sometimes, doesn’t it?” we assured him.
But he knew better. A couple of months later, after we’d left, he took to his bed and never again knew exactly where he was. It looked like a rapid onset of Alzheimer’s, but more likely, the doctors thought, was a senile dementia brought on by the blow to his head that day. He was eighty-five now….
….Let me end with a quote by E. B. White that I love….from the review in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06365/749712-148.stm, Sunday, December 31, 2006, ‘Letters OF E.B. White: Revised Edition’, Letters collection affirms wit, charm of E.B. White, by James A. Butler comes this priceless observation:
On age: “For an old man, a canoe is ideal; he need only sit and move his arms.”
As somebody who sometimes feels his age (even if I don’t always act it LOL LOL), I like the idea that the canoe is ideal for even just an older man….and that all it requires is for him to sit and move his arms….even I can do that much LOL LOL. But then E. B. White was still picking up his canoe on his own late in life, so I guess I don’t have many excuses for not portaging LOL LOL….
Any way, based on this latest poll, instead of E.B. White’s quote, I guess I’ll have to say something like:
For a somewhat middle-aged man, a canoe is ideal; he can still kneel (some of the time any way) and move his paddle through most of the strokes….well the easy going ones like a J or an Indian….those cross bow draws or high braces might be a bit much on the shoulders. But I am not so sure about those long portages with a wood canvas canoe….and sometimes anything over 100 metres is long.
Of course that is entirely in jest….I am just hoping I’m as spry as Omer Stringer at 66….Joanne Kates wrote an article entitled I Can Still Fly! (Paddling For Those Who Are Old Enough To Appreciate It) in Kanawa (Fall 2002), p. 43:
When I first met Omer Stringer, the granddaddy of the Algonquin style of canoeing, he was 66 and I was about 17. Omer was an unrepentant pack-a-day smoker, and he paddled better than I did. He would run a portage with his red Chestnut on his back. I carried nothing and struggled to keep up. And at the end of the portage, watching me suck air, he’d say: “See why I smoke? If I didn’t you’d never catch up with me.”
She states Omer was still paddling at 70. Later Joanne adds:
The wind picks up and starts to blow me around with serious intent. When it relents for a bit, I sit up to give the old knees some relief. They creak something fierce, but I celebrate that I can canoe at 50, and I can still canoe trip. I can portage, I can paddle hard, I can cook outside, do my business in the treasure chest, and I can even sleep on the ground (with a little help from my Thermarest).
Hallelujah! Just give me a few more minutes to get in and out of the canoe than you did 20 years ago. And so what if we have to carry slightly lighter packs and double back over portages nowadays? Who’s in a hurry anyway?
Every decade or so, it may be necessary to trade in your canoe for a lighter model – more technologically advanced, more expensive, and easier to carry. Omer Stringer did it. I remember him showing me, with great pride, the latest model he had built in his garage workshop. Each fresh-built canoe was lighter than its predecessor. Now I know why. It was so that its owner, and those who followed him along the path of the paddle, could continue to know the good life, especially once we get old enough to appreciate it.
This issue of Kanawa, Fall 2002 had a great section on Canoeing Is For Life, with an article by the same name by John Alan Lee, in which he points out that he intends to keep on canoeing as long as he can keep on walking….and diving….and portaging…and treating folks to wonderful stories around the campfire! John Alan Lee shared some tips and tricks from a master who knows how to pace himself, pamper the old bones, and live very well in the wild….here are his main points:
1. Taking time to smell the flowers….taking the time while canoe tripping….even if it means more rests on portages….taking double carries over the portage….noting trees with notches to rest a canoe on….using your experience and wisdom gained over the years in the woods….not attempting water that’s too fast….or high waves and wind.
2. You’ve got time!….still take multi-day trips….just plan less distance each day….and a surprising tip: carry more (even if it means more carries over portages)….have a few small convenient things to make yourself more comfortable….few more clothes pins and light line to hang up wet clothing….a tent-warming candle….an extra fly to sit outside your tent when it’s raining.
3. A good night’s sleep….better sleep equipment….a thicker foam mattress….a real pillow….some luxury for a better sleep.
4. Man’s best friend….take a dog for added security….and a warm body to sleep next to….but don’t forget a warmer sleeping bag….long johns….gloves and a toque….even sedatives can help with a good night’s sleep.
5. Protecting my old butt….added padding….foam pads for kneeling….on the yoke….closed-cell foam mat to sit on in camp.
6. Saving labour – and trees….use a smaller fire….less wood used….less damage to forest.
7. Senior’s moments….rely on lists….especially if preparing food for trip….better to have too much than too little.
8. Keep both feet on the ground….think about where you’re going….where you step….be more careful how you walk.
9. Take someone’s arm….don’t be embarrassed to take the arm of someone….don’t attempt hops over rocks….or risky steps into the canoe….watch your balance.
10. Who’s coming with you?….senior canoeists can join groups to paddle with others….possibly naturalist clubs….or find other senior paddlers from online canoeing forums.
11. Tripping with memories….remember old trip partners….raise a glass of wine to their memory….travel with a dog if you are not used to being out solo….make sure you have a good first aid kit….and know how to use….know what to do if lost.
12. You’re a role model!….take along a younger companion who might never have canoed….experienced and patient old canoeists make great role models….go over basics….keep it simple….and enjoy.
Let me quote from this article:
And yes! At 69, I can still hoist a canoe! I can’t say for certain how many years are left before I must yield to old age, but I can let you in on a few secrets. Some of them may surprise you, and many of them – I can promise you – work for paddlers of any age! It’s all a matter of pampering yourself a little, and perhaps changing a few old habits.
Take portaging, for example. These days, i don’t try to lift my canoe at the middle from my hip to my shoulders. I lift it at the bow and work my way down to the yoke. It’s easier if someone else raises the bow and holds it while I slip under. – John Alan Lee, Canoeing Is For Life, Kanawa (Fall 2002), p. 40
This same issue of Kanawa (same section actually) had an article on the Grey Hares, a senior naturalist group in Manitoba….so if you don’t want to travel alone there are options….and ways to continue to have paddling fun.
Going back to Joanne Kate’s article I quoted from before, let me just add this quote of hers:
For me, a middle-aged woman, a canoe is also a place of power. Paddling along, you know your luck as a person who is no longer young. More aggressive sporting pursuits close their doors to us as we pass 50. And indeed I am creakier, more cautious, less agile than I used to be getting in and out of canoes. But once settled in my wood and canvas canoe, I can still fly.
So I guess if E.B. White is still paddling his canoe well into his 80s….if Omer Stringer was still racing younger women across portages in his mid 60s….and my own Dad was still kayaking in his mid 80s….then I shouldn’t have any excuses not to be out paddling….not that I have any excuses other than those I use to go paddling….like: I should be out in the canoe today so I can see what the water level is.
Maybe I’ll find myself enshrined in some museum….maybe as Farley Mowat states in Canadian Canoe Museum: Famous Friends – Farley Mowat:
My canoe is in the Canadian Canoe Museum, which is exactly where it should be. Who knows, maybe someday I can be in it again—either preserved in vodka or properly prepared by a good taxidermist….
Paddles up until later then….maybe the poll says I’m ‘middle-aged’….but I’ll still be in bed by 9 pm tonight I guess….gotta get up early to go out paddling!!!! To check the water level of the local lake. And at my age I do need my rest before heading out in the canoe….despite what E.B. White wrote: “For an old man, a canoe is ideal; he need only sit and move his arms”, I need to do more than just sit and move my arms….besides I don’t sit, I kneel (well as long as my knees allow me to any way LOL LOL). And I hope to paddle until I drop….Jack Hurley (a fine canoe builder) was once quoted:
….I’d really like to die somewhere out on a canoe trip. I’d like to set my canoe down on the water and stare at the beauty of the thing just one last time. And then let them find me there beside it. Can you think of a better way to go? – from The Builder, an article on Jack Hurley by Brian Shields in Canoeroots Spring 2009, p.14.
I do think it’s a great way to go….to be doing something you love….so I do hope to go with a paddle in my hand….although really I don’t want to end up in the Canadian Canoe Museum….whether ‘pickled’ or ‘stuffed’ LOL LOL….maybe my favourite canoe….but not me.
AND THIS IS DEFINITELY THE LAST POST FOR THIS BLOG….SERIOUSLY THE FINAL ONE….PADDLES UP FOR GOOD.
MIIGWECH FOR TAKING PART IN THE JOURNEY