A Maiden Voyage~
Imperfect beauty is everything in this life. Give me the train-track marks of stitches along a forearm from a surf wipeout in El Salvador, a gunshot entry scar from Baja, the freckles, blood bruises, the telltale lines of joy around a pair of eyes from smiling so much, and all points in between. They all stand for a life well-lived with a few reminders of how fragile this all can be. When I noticed a lonely Osprey covered in a foot of sawdust in the far back corner of the Merrimack factory, she looked beautiful to me.
She was the first. The boys had made her when they set to both carry on the tradition of these canoes, as well as hopefully bring even more life to them. And they have. She had tiny gaps between cherry gunwale sections, a wee too much enthusiastic glass in places, and there were no doubt heaps of lessons learned from her birth─but that’s what it’s all about, for we never get anywhere without taking those leaps of faith, one foot in front of the other.
They were thinking of using her for a sign near the shop, never to see the water. To me, it was the only sign I needed, for she was here to be set free, as if a mandolin waiting to be hand-carved and liberated from a tree─to make music, run wild, and tell stories. They offered to clean her up and lovingly sand, oil, and finish off a few details if I was game. You know I was. She was on the racks of the Polar Bear by morning.
AWOL As Ever~
After a brief paperwork visit and twenty-four bucks to get her legal, I found a road that runs right along the Mississippi River, just outside of Winona. All of the sawdust was still on the bottom of the canoe, and as I took off in the truck, I could see it fly through the air straight back as a one-off crazy dust storm obliterating a family min-van windshield, almost causing it to run off the road. I slowed to make sure they were fine, and as they passed, they were all laughing away, and a young girl in the front seat gave the thumbs up. It was time for this Osprey to find her wings.
A few miles out of town to the north, near a cemetery that had most likely been there for a century or two, I pulled the truck over and unracked her, hiked a quarter mile or so across a railroad bed, and placed her alongside the riverbank. I threw a fly rod and Patagonia dry bag in, along with a well-worn and cherished Sanborn Gunflint paddle. A boot kicked off from the shore, and gravity has nothing on us anymore.
Oh, what a sweetheart. If you pay attention, things in life will tell us who they are, what they are. The Osprey is beyond content once she is floating across the water. She seems as if she had three glasses of chilled rose’ wine from France, and perhaps even rolled her own loose-leaf tobacco smoke. She flat-out oozes assured grace and steadfast tranquility. What a ride.
I pause to wonder what is possibly in store for her and me, knowing full well that there is plenty of life ahead, with so many stories and moments yet to come along on the path.
Nathaniel Riverhorse Nakadate~
Nathaniel Riverhorse Nakadate is an adventurer and environmentalist who has spent years as a journalist using nature and words to make sense of life, love, and his place in it. He is a staff assignment writer for numerous high-brow surfing, guitar, and fly-fishing magazines, and has been published internationally almost two hundred times. In 2019 The Flyfish Journal created a documentary film about Riverhorse titled, “Love & Water,” which was supported by Patagonia. The film follows him throughout his beloved Texas coast and forest lakes, and he wrote both the music and narration for it. Riverhorse is currently working on a pair of exclusive Patagonia environmental films in the Boundary Waters and Swedish Lapland. He is known for traveling alone to the farthest outer fringes of nature and the earth to immerse himself in terrain, explore solitude, pen stories of the beauty of the path, the amusing characters along the way, and why love is all that matters in this life.