Time to get up and get going

Each year, as winter gets its grip on the northern hemisphere, Rapid Media puts out the annual Paddling Buyer’s Guide. What seed catalogues are to gardeners, the paddling buyer’s guide is to those who enjoy human-powered boats. The five magazines of the American Canoe Association all join together in a single edition. Paddle Boarder, Kayak Angler, Canoeroots, Rapid, and Adventure Kayak all team up to produce a magazine with over 300 pages of gorgeous photographs, boats and boating equipment for sale, reviews and articles.You have to be a boat geek to really want to read articles like, “Why your whitewater kayak is all wrong,” or “What your canoe seat really says about you” or “How innovation is killing sea kayaking.” I bet, however, that even those who have never sat in a canoe or felt the resistance of a paddle in the water could be inspired by the truly gorgeous photographs in the magazine. With two days of snow in the forecast and the temperature at 11 degrees heading towards nearly -20 by the weekend, the next few days look to be a good time to curl up with the magazine to wait out the weather.

Already I’ve found an inspirational quote on one of the pages of this year’s issue. No author is cited, so one might assume the source is one of the staff writers of the various magazines whose work is combined in the issue. Under a photo of a solo canoeist paddling into the sunrise on a calm lake is written, “Every morning you have two choices: continue to sleep with your dreams or wake up and chase them.”

It isn’t a difficult choice for me.

I’ve never been very good at remembering the dreams that come with sleep. I had a college professor who was disciplined to keep a daily journal of his dreams and after years of practice could remember four or five dreams every morning. I thought it was a kind of quirky and interesting discipline, so I set off to imitate him. After a week of not being able to remember a single dream, I abandoned the project and have not since put any effort at all into trying to remember my dreams. Then, if you add to that inability the fact that I’m generally not very good at sleeping, I’m not a very good candidate for choosing to continue to seep with my dreams. On those nights when I’m up twice or three times to read in the middle of the night, I make up for it with an afternoon nap. I’m really good at falling asleep and the first 20 minutes or so of sleeping. It’s the stretch after that that challenges my abilities. When morning comes, I’m ready to wake up and chase my dreams.

However, the lake is frozen solid. It’s not a good day for paddling. And the temperatures are sinking to the point where it is just too cold to work on my boats in the garage. Even with my kerosene heater going full blast, the uninsulated garage gets a bit frosty when the mercury dips below zero. Of course that is just a cute saying. We don’t have a mercury thermometer and our digital one is probably placed in the wrong spot for accurate readings.

So, instead of heading to the lake for a sunrise paddle, something that I enjoy in the spring, summer and fall, I’ll get in a short session on the rowing machine before my morning shower. Even though the room where I have my rowing machine is the only area of our house that has an eastern-facing window, it isn’t as inspiring as paddling on a real lake in the predawn hours. Moreover this time of year it is still dark when I finish.

There is something wonderful about getting in an early morning paddle before heading in to work. Even when I have a meeting as the first event of my day, there is a sense of accomplishment that I carry with me into the room when I have had time to paddle before coming to the office. That sense of being someone who can accomplish something remains with me all day long and really is a boost for a job where most of the problems that come up are not ones that can be quickly solved and where I leave the office with undone work on my desk nearly every day.

I have a plan of work and I maintain a list of items to be accomplished, but the crux of my work seems to lie in the interruptions. I had planned to finish the first draft of the Christmas Day worship bulletin yesterday and draft a letter to go out with an end-of-the-year pledge follow-up letter. A text message informing me that there was someone at the hospital who needed a visit as soon as possible and a call for assistance from another person trying to get home before the storm hit combined with a couple of other interruptions to shift my priorities. I’m not complaining. I actually love the changes in focus that are a part of my job. But I often arrive home at the end of the day feeling like I haven’t finished much - like I haven’t accomplished much. Starting my day with a trip to the lake changes my entire attitude. Having accomplished a pre-dawn paddle and made it back in time to begin my work day makes me feel like I am capable of accomplishing other things.

A study by PHIT America (Personal Health Investment Today) measuring performance by students in Illinois saw a 93-percent improvement in math scores and a 56-percent increase in reading scores after exercise. John Ratey of Harvard University wrote, “Exercise is Miracle Grow for the Brain.” I confess that I’m not as disciplined as I would like when it comes to exercise, but I have discovered that I’m better at exercising in the morning than I am in the evening. By the end of my work day, I often convince myself that I’m just too tired to work out.

I guess I’m just a member of the dawn patrol. It’s time to get a jumpstart on the day.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!