I thought about this Grand Canyon story a few times while I was recovering. Not sure why—thinking of anything was hard, and yet….We are at the mercy of so many things, I guess.
We had just started out, you and me and five others in the little yellow paddle boat, the larger pontoon oar boats leading the way. We were the toughies, in this rig; they were the tourists.
I was excited, full of myself, energized and boastful—I yelled and dug the paddle in the water like I was an old hand at this, this thing I’d never done before.
The first rapid, a rapid I would come to realize was chump change compared to what waited for us ahead, just egged me on, bumped my energy up a notch or two. And then…then, an eddy swirled up and dragged the lip of the raft down. I lost my balance and fell in, pulled under and away from the boat so fast I didn’t know what hit me. The paddle boat continued on in the current as I was tugged back and away. I managed to break free of the eddy and crawl up on an outcrop of rocks, shaking, frightened, watching the boats floating away.
“Stay put! Don’t move!” yelled the guide. I tapped the top of my head, indicating I was okay, but my teeth were chattering—who knew whether from chill or stark fear.
The guide managed to pull the raft back along the shore to retrieve me. As I clambered back into the raft and pulled a jacket around myself, he watched me kindly and then said with no small amount of seriousness, “Big river, little boat. Don’t forget that.”
Embarrassment seeped in as I warmed up. Down river, once we all settled on a spot to camp for the night, I found an embankment where I could be with the river alone, quiet, where I could make amends, I guess.