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Lessons Learned Paddling in the Moonlight

Last night, my husband Mark and I went kayaking in the moonlight. The event had all the makings for a romantic evening. It was a warm summer night under a beautiful moonlit sky on a five mile stretch of a lazy and shallow Hocking River. We had been looking forward to this adventure for weeks.

We were joined by three of our friends and met at the canoe livery in Logan, Ohio. The event attracted about 50 other paddling enthusiasts.

Mark unloaded our yellow tandem kayak from the car and put it on the rack of the transport van that took us upriver. By this time, the sun had set and we needed flashlights in order to see. I took the front seat in the kayak with Mark seated behind me so he could operate the foot pedals attached to the steering rudder.

Mark and I have been kayaking for the past four years and this was our first evening paddle expedition. We were told that the trip would take approximately two hours.

One of friends was in a kayak while the other two were in a canoe. The five of us positioned our boats downstream and began paddling.

In order to see better, Mark and I each had a small headlight attached to a band that we wore around our heads. When we turned them on, instantly, small flying bugs swarmed our faces and we began swatting them instead of paddling. There was no way to see through the bugs. We quickly realized that those lights had to go off! On came the large handheld flashlight.

Mark handed the flashlight to me. It was impossible to hold the large flashlight in one hand in order to navigate the river while paddling. I positioned the flashlight on the front deck of the kayak under a bungee cord and resumed paddling. I couldn't position the light correctly in that location, so resorted to holding it in my hand. I still was having trouble seeing the river's path ahead, including the obstacles we bumped into -- protruding rocks and tree limbs. It was also impossible to determine the depth of the water, and several times we navigated into shallow water and got stuck. I became very fearful paddling in dark areas so I focused my attention on shining the beam ahead of us and our friends.

Mark did much of the paddling and all of the steering. His tone of voice told me that he was stressed and frustrated at times, not knowing where to steer.

I tried unsuccessfully holding the flashlight under my chin for a while, and then I positioned it between my bent knees. Where was the moon to guide our way?

The moon was cast in a slight yellow haze. This was not the intensity we had hoped for to light up the river. When the moon was shielded by the trees on the river's edge, it was a totally dark evening. It felt surreal - like we were kayaking in a dream.

At times I felt afraid. When we got stuck on a rock or in shallow water we had to dig the paddles into the river bed to push us out. Once, Mark had to get out of the boat and pull me across the rocks due to the shallow water.

When I felt fear, I was more diligent positioning the light so I could see in the darkness. When I could see the obstacle-free water ahead, fear subsided. When we were caught by obstacles, the fear returned. I could tell what was triggering my fear. I was visioning this as a scary night on the river.

In order to avoid feeling afraid, I decided to focus my thoughts differently. I thought about an amusement ride that I had been on before while in a boat and remembered the fun of that ride. Then I felt calmer and began to have conversations with our friends. I wondered if the laughter I heard from them last night was the kind that helps reduce tension.

We all started to feel a sense of relief around 10:00 p.m. when we heard the blue grass music emanating from the canoe livery. Then we smelled the burning wood from the campfire. We were all looking forward to getting back to safety, and having s'mores by the campfire.

Light does reveal the path to safely navigate down a river. You need to find the light to help you navigate through life.

Here are some lessons I learned last night in the moonlight that may help you in your life.

When you can't see obstacles sometimes you imagine they are there.

When other people are going through the same experiences as you, it is more comforting.

When you are alone you are more fearful.

When you face an obstacle, don't overestimate the size until you try to get beyond it with simple maneuvers. When the simple maneuvers didn't work, try something else.

Laughter can ease tension.

When you are afraid, focus on your motivation rather than the obstacle in front of you.

Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. is a speaker, trainer and author. To book her to speak at a conference, or to subscribe to her free monthly inspirational column, go to:

Rosemarie conducts presentations that bring out the best in people, to help them achieve goals, and take charge of their lives. Rosemarie helps her audiences discover their inner strength. Her core message is focused on sharing information, strategies, and life lessons that provide the tools to LIVE LIFE WITH CONVICTION.

She is the author of "Take Back Your Life!" and is Ms. Wheelchair Ohio 2004.

Rosemarie would like to receive your comments about the impact her article has made on your life. Write her at:

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