Friday, February 8, 2008

A very small yacht.

The battered old fiberglass canoe was labeled "FREE" and put at the curbside. With a few holes punched in it, a coat of dried green slime and with rotting seats and gunwales it was not a promising sight. My son-in-law, Tim, saw its potential though, tossed it on his truck, and gave it to me. He had remembered that I was mulling over a cross Canada canoe trip and so supplied the first essential ingredient: a beginning.

At first I rejected this canoe. That was the easy first step to not start the journey. I saw all it`s limitations quite realistically. I was not a first time boat builder and no romance would ever again sweep me off my feet! Rather than take it to the dump myself (a fairly major job on our Gulf Island) I thought some more and decided to just make the most limited of beginnings ; replace the gunwales, fix the seats and patch the holes. Then, after a coat of paint, we could keep it at a local bay and go for a paddle any time we liked. Recycling, after all, is a good thing!

While repairing the canoe, I was also completing a two year long rebuilding project on a 25' Folk Boat that I had bought in a neglected condition. This summer, a complicated redesigning and lining of the interior had called for endless patience and creative problem solving. The place I do my thinking, the back pages of my sketchbook, were full of scratchy little design drawings. One day though, to my horror, the canoe appeared in the center of a fresh white page: a sketch in the guise of fantasy, it was an answer to all my design needs for an adventure. Already it had a raised sheer line, sail, oars, an elegant figurehead, and a happy voyager. A very small yacht was smiling encouragingly at me and waiting to be launched!

My sketchbook is half full of germinating ideas for projects I have completed over the past five years since we arrived home from our Pacific sailing adventure. I can look back to see the process and always buried in the midst of detailed problem solving drawings is the first inspiration that began the whole thing. These inspirational ones are different from the rest: they are often quite complete and quite romantic. If ever there was an example of my unfettered imagination determinedly communicating with the "little engineer" practical side of myself and insisting on cooperation this has to be it!

At this point, several months later, the "little canoe that would" is well on its way to completion and is indeed the first essential step toward actualizing a long and complex canoe journey. I still think that working on that canoe project was not necessarily the best choice, but it was a choice and things will now flow onward from there. Without the canoe arriving at my front door, I could have lost my flow in the midst of possibilities and been halted at the very start of the journey.

I`m lucky to be familiar with my working style whether it is in building projects like this one or the process of creating a carving or painting. I know that it is a cooperation between all facets of myself: the dreaming self, the practical self, and most importantly, what I think of as my handy self. When I can`t imagine or problem solve my way through a stage, I let my mind go slack and just set my hands to work with the materials at hand. I think of it as giving my dreaming self a pair of hands. I have confidence in the process, so things work out. It is not a smooth road however, and not a mind set that is applicable in every situation: if I apply this creative mode to shared decision making with my wife, for example, it can drive her crazy because there is no logical step by step way of moving ahead. We can agree on a point, and then I will see more possibilities. Endless possibilities! As an intuitive thinker, I have had to learn to make the necessary transition to the next decision and to move forward. Thanks to learning that necessary step the canoe trip is free to move closer to reality.

The most difficult thing is still to make a beginning; to cast off from shore. Everything flows forward from there.

[An extended canoe expedition] " involves a starting rather than a parting.
Although it assumes the breaking of ties, its purpose is not to destroy the
past, but to lay a foundation for the future. From now on, every living act will
be built on this step, which will serve as a base long after the return of the
expedition... and until the next one."
Pierre Trudeau.

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