Row Your Boat

While the blog was on hiatus, I took up a new hobby—rowing.

As to the common questions I get when I tell people about this:

  1. Yes, real rowing.  In a boat.  On the water.
  2. No, you don’t have to wake up at four in the morning.
  3. Yes, it’s lovely on the water.
  4. No, we don’t wear helmets or life vests.
  5. As a workout, it absolutely kicks your ass.

I had no prior experience with rowing.  I had no particular affinity for boats—I’d been in canoes and kayaks a few times, and my grandparents owned a pontoon boat when I was a kid.

But none of this prepared me for rowing.

The other question I am asked (particularly by the other members who are always recruiting) is why I signed up for their eight week learn to row class.

It’s a three-pronged answer:

  1. During the Oakmont Street Fair, someone from the rowing club handed me a flyer
  2. Tess Monaghan, heroine of a series of Laura Lippman detective novels, spends her mornings rowing on the Patapsco River and it seems to keep her body and mind ready to fight crime.  (I make a surprising number of life decisions based on what I think Tess Monaghan, Eve Dallas, Mary Chapin Carpenter, MacKayla Lane, or Katharine Hepburn would do in the same situation.  I normally don’t admit this, so let’s keep this between us, okay?)
  3. Steel City Rowing Club is fifteen minutes from my house. 

Fifteen minutes.  That’s all that separated me from a whole new world that was right outside my door.  Fifteen minutes and I was out on the water, rowing away and feeling like my teammates and I were the only people in the world.  If you’re doing it right, you leave all your worries and cares on the shore and just live in the moment of every stroke.

Eight weeks and I was hooked.  Eight minutes and I was hooked.

I have many well established, nearly lifelong loves—cats, dark movie theaters, good books.  I like to tell stories.  I like treadmills, and concerts, and obsessively organizing my desk.

But it’s good to try something new.  Sometimes—like my short-lived career in typewriter restoration—it doesn’t work out.

But sometimes it does.  Rowing has invigorated me—body, mind, soul.  I have a new exercise regimen, a new community of friends, and the thrill that comes from the step by step process of maturing from a complete novice to an intermediate. 

Maybe one day I’ll be a master.

But rowing is like writing, or yoga, or a life well lived.

There is no mastery.  There is only the joy of pursuit.

So whatever it is—small or large—try something new.  Row your boat, whatever that means to you.

And it doesn’t have to be perfect.  In fact, we nearly sunk a boat last summer.

But that’s a story for another Sunday.

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