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A Punch of Resilience

You probably know by now that I love the Fernie area and the Elk river that runs through it. I have been wanting to whitewater raft the lower section of the Elk for a number of years, but each summer the water level has been just lower than I would like it – I want the full experience of course. Well, this year the heavy snowfall and late spring meant that the river was still in full force well into July. How could I resist? 

After what felt like a four hour safety briefing, teaching us how the equipment works, what to do if we go overboard or if the boat flips,  we were finally able to launch with several groups and experienced guides. The adventure was on. We were into class III and IV rapids right from the start. Those were good, but I really came for the small canyon section where the river is forced to flow through a 15 foot narrow canyon. Here the water swells, and is unpredictable while creating magnificent class V rapids. 

The water before the canyon is slow moving as the water is held back by the granite canyon walls. The guide took this opportunity to remind us again what to do as we go into the canyon – paddle hard – and in case of the unlikely event the raft flips – they have not flipped a raft in years – how to hold on and get to safety. “Trust your gear, if you go under, pull yourself into a small ball. The buoyancy in your jacket will bring you back to the surface. Stay calm, swim to the nearest raft and hold onto the side ropes.  Work the plan and the plan will work. But don’t worry, we haven’t flipped a boat in years”. 

 We were barely into the canyon when we hit a rock and one of the swells came up and flipped us like we were just a leaf. Mike Tyson once said “everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the face”. Submerged in rapidly moving water that feels like it wants to drag you into the abyss has the same effect. People started panicking, forgetting everything they were told. There were screams, people hitting rocks – thank goodness for helmets – and just general chaos. It wasn’t until the guides started yelling clear instructions again that everyone started doing the right things that brought us all to safety. 

That rafting trip felt a bit like 2020 in a nutshell. Everything seemed just fine, with just the normal turbulent waters we experience in life. Then all of a sudden, BAM! you are thrown overboard and chaos ensues. It can feel overwhelming at times, almost like being underwater, struggling for air. 

So I want to deeply commend you on your resilience this year! I know it has been a tough year. It was a year where, on top of everyday life stresses, you had to face the heightened health risk and falling markets, all while being isolated. You had to change and cancel travel and family plans. You had to adapt, adjust and even be a rock for others to lean on at times.  Just trying to make sense of it all felt like a fulltime job to some. I think you should celebrate the resilience you showed this year and continue to strengthen that valuable skill. I believe it is the Chinese proverb that says:  the capacity of humans to endure hardship is like bamboo – far more flexible and strong than you would believe at first glance. You have proven that. 

As we wrap up, let’s take a moment to appreciate the strength, flexibility, and resilience we’ve discovered in ourselves, much like the enduring qualities of bamboo. Our experiences, whether on the river or navigating the challenges of 2020, have shown us that we are capable of overcoming obstacles and adapting to the unexpected. Let us carry these lessons with us as we continue our journey through life, embracing the rapids and the calm waters alike, always remembering our innate resilience. Here’s to a future of growth, adaptability, and the continued pursuit of adventure. Stay strong and keep paddling, my friends!

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