By Shannon Graham
I came into the experience with a lot going on.
Woke up on Saturday morning exhausted, secretly hoping the event would be rescheduled due to weather. I needed sleep. I didn’t feel like driving 50 minutes. And I really just wanted to be home and still.
I stopped by Dunkin Donuts on the way for coffee and a hot breakfast, hoping that would give me the boost I needed. The coffee was delicious.
Driving to Eden Mill, I started to relax a bit more. The trees were beautifully green, the roads windy, and my music loud. I chose to play “positive” songs to help get my mind right. They were motivating, simple, and put me in a playful mood. Again, the coffee was delicious.
Upon arriving at the site, I said my usual good mornings. Put on a cheerful face. It was 9 am on a Saturday. We were informed that we wouldn’t have access to a bathroom for a few hours, which for me, was mildly panic inducing. After all, I had a large cup of piping hot coffee on the drive up! It’s worth noting that bathroom access was my biggest concern. I found that I wasn’t nervous about bugs, paddling, or floating away over the dam.
As a group, we began to get settled in and attentively listened to instructions on how to properly wear life jackets, hold our paddles, and navigate steering.
The time had come for us to hop in the canoe. I wobbled to the front seat, sat down, and a volunteer quickly pushed us off the bank. Immediately, I noticed a change in my body once we were launched into the water. I felt held; calm. The water felt familiar. Gentle, but sturdy. I was safe in the arms of the water; no longer relying on my own body to hold me up.
There was something particularly peaceful about the river this time, compared to the last canoe trip in 2019. My canoe partner and I barely had to paddle. It was as if the water was saying, “Just float. I got you.”
To be surrounded by trees, the thick, moist air of a post-storm morning, the soothing sounds of crickets and cicadas, I was in a therapeutic trance. We peacefully paddled, along with the group, making small talk along the way. It was on a mindfulness break that I noticed the most picturesque dew drops on leaves. So beautiful (and pure) that I asked my partner for her phone so that I could snap a photo.
Then came the time when we were asked to silently paddle and float, to further take in our surroundings. “Finally!”, I thought to myself. Being able to take in nature scenes with minimal distraction is ideal for me. We turned a “corner” if you will, and I saw the most beautiful landscape I’d seen in a while. It looked like a painting. Just STUNNING lush vegetation. Untouched. God is masterful! The way the trees beautifully draped over one another, gracefully falling into place like art. The poignant green colors, the rich canopy of trees, the steady calm of the brown river. It was divine. My nervous system went into an even deeper level of calm. I was witnessing serenity. To be held by the water the way that it did, it was clear that it didn’t need us - we needed it. My cares seemed to drift away, and I was reminded that everything will be alright.
Afterward, we returned to the bank and systematically put away the canoes, which was a beautiful display of teamwork. We debriefed our experience, discussed our relationships with water, and learned about its healing powers. I appreciated the opportunity to connect more with the group.
I left the experience so thankful that I went. Thankful that I pushed through getting up on a dreary Saturday morning, when I really wanted to relax and stay in bed. Thankful that I didn't have to use the bathroom while out on the water! Thankful that the river held me in the way that it did.
The return on investment for “Therapy on the Water” was high. The drive was worth it. I felt rejuvenated, restored, and renewed in mind, body, and spirit. As soon as I got home, I went for a swim - to once again, be immersed in water.