Matawin River Junction, Kaministiquia River – September 20, 2013
Get up, kid, get up. You can’t lie there forever. You can’t hide wrapped in your sleeping bag beneath your tarp. I know it’s comfortable. I know you’re tired. I know you’re eating spoonfuls of Nutella. But the river won’t go away. You have to get up.
I know it’s cold. I know your clothes are wet. I know how they’ll feel pulled across bare skin. You’ll shiver. The wind will cut into you. The fabric will feel like ice. Your hands will numb. Doesn’t matter. Get up.
I know the river punched you hard yesterday. I know it knocked your breath out. It broke skin and drew blood. It bruised muscles and battered joints. I know it almost ripped the boat out of your hands and swept you away. I know. Get up anyway. Get up on those bones wired together with tired muscles, get up with your swollen joints and tattered will, but get up. You have to get up.
I know. Yes, I know the boat is heavy and the river fast. I know the hull feels planted in the earth and the rope cuts into your hands every time you pull. I know the shifting rocks crush your feet and clawing for handholds wore your palms raw. I know. Get up anyway.
I know you paid for every inch of those four miles yesterday. You paid like they were worth a hundred. But you bought them anyway and they’re yours now. Get up. You’ve got to get up and pay again.
I know it feels impossible. But I know it isn’t a wall. I promise you that there is an end. The river cannot rise forever. Look behind you. Look at the water falling away. You’ll never see it again. Those miles are gone. They’re beaten.
I know you did that. You. You broke them. I know you won’t let them break you. Those cuts will close. Those bruises will heal. Now get up. You have to get up. You can beat this river. You can beat it one inch at a time, but not if you stay here.
Open your eyes. Comfort is a lie. There is only one way off this river.
Peel back that sleeping bag. Put on those wet clothes. Shiver against the cold fabric. Pack the boat with numb fingers. Drag it off the bank and into the water. Sink down to your hip next to it and pull it forward. Pull it up the next rapid. Stumble if you have to, smash your feet if you have to, wear your fingertips raw if you have to, but go, you have to go, you have to refuse to quit.
You have to prove you won’t be intimidated, you won’t be cowed, you won’t be chased from the field. Prove it. You must prove it. No, not to the river, not to the rocks, not to the rapids or ghosts of voyageurs.
You have to prove it to yourself.