Some of the best boating the husband and I ever did was with an experienced friend and river guide in a McKenzie River drift boat. It was 30 years ago. We were young, idealistic, newly married DINKs double-income-no-kids. Life was cotton candy clouds and deep blue skies.
Drifting sounds like you plunk the boat in the water and unpack the picnic lunch Aunt Bea made, but there's more to it than you think.
Just like a drift boat on a river yields intervals of calm punctuated by hair-raising screams, so the journey of marriage has its whitewaters and placid pools.
Friends of Al and Tipper Gore say their marriage came undone because they drifted apart. After forty years they found themselves on separate currents. Drifting is inherent with danger.
The art to drifting is knowing the river. You have to read the currents that ripple across the surface and the ones that swirl beneath. You have to circumvent floating dead wood and maneuver tight turns between river rocks.
You have to listen to your guide. If your guide says to push the paddle, you push. If your guide says pull, you pull. If your guide says to pat your head and rub your stomach, you do that, too.
Occasionally, you even have to put up with attitude. I said to the left! What are you thinking? Are you sleeping back there? But sometimes, on the backside of those jagged rocks, you just might catch a rainbow.
The river changes from season to season, so it's a good idea to check in with the regulars, the old-timers hanging at the coffee shop who have been drifting longer and know the course.
Even in a span of comfort and ease you have to keep an open eye. You don't want to tangle with an angler's line, let loose of a paddle or assume the hard part is over.
Ninety-five percent of drifting is turning the boat at a 45-degree angle to the current and pulling away from the obstacles. A sharp turn from any threat is your best protection.
There can be sniping and frustration in rough waters. But if you stay cool and stay the course, you'll also see ferns waving from moss-covered banks and sunlight teasing through towering firs.
The sounds of the river are occasionally accompanied by a distant rush. The rush grows louder and louder and before you know it the water on the horizon has a rounded edge. The water doesn't end. It drops. Sharply.
The boat tips, plunges, cuts into the water below and sends cascading plumes arcing into the air.
It's only natural to approach your first waterfall screaming, "We can't, we can't, we can't!"
But you do, you do, you do.
Drenched and soaked to the skin, screaming and laughing and heart beating wildly, you might not want to run the falls again, but there is value in knowing you can if you have to.
Lazy drifts, white waters and unexpected falls are all a part of the journey of marriage. Drifting in a river boat is quite an adventure, too.
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