I’ve been blessed to be on the water a lot more lately, and my gratitude for this is as wide as the sea.
I’m grateful for the tranquility of water, from glassy lakes to a calm day on the Pacific.
I’m equally grateful for the churn of water, from the Columbia River and Gorge waterfalls that make the Pacific Northwest so gorgeous in any season, to the unruly ocean.
I’m grateful for all the people who trained hard to teach me how to be in and on the water. I’m grateful for canoe guides — the late Stan Walsh of Northern Ontario particularly — and for kayaking instructors who put safety first in teaching me how to read the waves. I am always, always grateful for their patience with me, the uncoordinated but oh-so-enthusiastic paddler.
I am pumped by this gratitude today, because of the Olympics.
Not much of a sports fan, I was certain I wouldn’t be watching any events.
Then I saw poetry in motion yesterday — men’s whitewater canoeing slalom — and was stunned to watch Michal Martikan sliding through Gate 10 as if he and his craft were dancing on manmade waves.
Not much of a gearhead, I had a flash of instant lust for the streamlined kayaks in this event. I was comparing the paddles with those I use for kayaking and canoeing, comparing the competitors’ moves through the gates, and admiring their strength in riding that whitewater.
I was in awe.
And then, Tony Estanguet.
He powered through the course as if he could read every wave, every churn. His race was so beautiful to watch, my heart fluttered.
I imagine many Olympics watchers experience the same thrill for their favorite sports. I know many calculate seconds, watch the clock, and are excited by the stats that determine if world records are set.
Have to admit that I don’t even know the times on the slalom event yesterday.
I read later that Martikan, from Slovakia, and Estanguet, from France, have been trading the gold medal for this event back and forth for a decade. I learned that Estanguet won the gold in 2000 and 2004, and this gold caps his last Olympics.
Had to laugh when an announcer declared that Estanguet was the oldest competitor in the event. (He’s 34!)
I am grateful to have had the honor of watching all the whitewater athletes.
It did not matter which country’s colors they wore — I didn’t even know which nations were competing until yesterday.
I only know that I am grateful to have watched masters in motion on water.