Rempel Island

Scott SkiingI love slalom skiing. Wakeboarding is fine. We even surf behind the ski boat these days. There is something, however, I love about that feeling of creating a big rooster tail, feeling the rhythm, living in that moment. I don’t own a boat (I whine about that here sometimes) but I have a good friend who will, if I pout enough, take me for a ski every now and then. This past long weekend we launched the boat on the Fraser River and took a cruise towards Vancouver, had lunch on Rempel Island… and I got out the ski.

Fraser RiverSomething happens to me when I water ski that rarely happens in the real world. I can truly, for a few brief moments, live in the moment. I’m not thinking about the mortgage or my problems, I don’t even care about my family or my finances. All I want to do is cross the wake and lean. I’m not a great slalom skier but I am a decent one and so I don’t have to think much about falling or screwing up. I just “am”.

About a month ago we went skiing on Alouette Lake during an overnight campout with two of my kids, my ski boat buddy Rod, and a lifelong friend Martin. We woke up Sunday morning and soon realized that no one, not a single person, was on the entire twelve-mile long lake. I put on the ski and dipped into the 72 degree water. Within seconds I was up and began the rhythm, the poetry that is slalom skiing. I was alone on a lake surrounded by mountains on all four sides, the water was glass and warm. I was fully alive.


I wish more of my life was like those moments. Too much of life is lived looking forward or backwards, worrying about stuff and people and problems, trying to make a living while wishing I was in Rod’s boat. Life has a way of taking up most of our time. Few of us are rich enough to spend our life waterskiing. It’s tempting, isn’t it, to pine for that which we do not have and miss out on the blessings we should enjoy.

Mindfulness. In counseling I talk about it all the time but often fail to live it myself. Mindfulness is allowing yourself to be in the moment, enjoy the journey, and appreciate what is happening right now. We are a discontented people who have been raised with champagne wishes and caviar dreams; never satisfied and constantly stressed.

I got a little Pelican kayak for my birthday last week from some good friends and family who know me enough to realize that I need to paddle something. For most of my life I have been passionate about whitewater canoeing. I have canoed the Nahanni, the Clearwater River, the Foster River, the Muskeg River, several rivers in Colorado and northern Canada. I’ve done the Kootenay River four times now with my boys, my brother, my dad and my best friends from Alberta. When I dream of canoeing I dream of the Churchill River, of Great Devil Rapids, of wrapping a canoe around a rock on Donaldson Chamber with my old friend Don Hand. Paddling is in my blood and I have tried to instil that love in my three boys. Floating down Otter Rapids in your life jacket is something everyone should do at least once in their life. I have memories of friends and moments, so many moments, that will stick with me for life. My happy places – rivers and lakes and slalom skis and Rod’s boat.

I am trying to live other moments as well. Moments at work, playing with Angus, kissing the people I adore, talking with friends, playing in the band. It’s tempting, isn’t it, to forget to enjoy what is happening at this very moment and dream of times long past or dreams to come. Mindfulness reminds me to smile right now, even on dry land.

I’m still going to paddle my new kayak out to Rempel Island this week.

Birthday Reflections

He was obviously at least twenty years older than she was. He was also ignoring her as she texted away, seemingly oblivious to my stares. Why was she with him?

They got into a Mercedes. I know I shouldn’t speculate but I have known many clients, often more female than male, who are attracted to people with money or power. I have a hard time getting my head around such a desire but I know it exists and is doing quite well.

If there is any moral lesson to The Wedding Singer it’s that you should do what you love, rock that mullet, and damn the money. Corporate sellouts with feathered hair and a taste for Heineken will ultimately lose the girl to the hobo guitar player and his pure love.

It can happen. Some people love musicians. I’m fairly certain, however, and I’m not really going out on a whim here, that more people, way more, like money and all the spicy things money can buy. If you fall in love you might as well fall in love with someone who is rich, right? Musicians may vibrate my crazy bone but a lawyer with a Maserati keeps on giving. The meek may inherit the earth but the rich suffer in comfort. Money may not buy you happiness, as the comedian said, but want to know what really doesn’t buy you happiness? Poverty, poverty does not buy you happiness.

Many of us find security important. It would be, for lack of a better illustration, on the Top Three List Of Our Values. It’s easy to be idealistic and want to save the world when you are twenty and will never grow old. It’s another thing altogether when all your friends are retiring and you are a greeter at Wal-Mart… again.

I want a ski boat. I’ll never get one but it’s still nice to dream of water-skiing on Alouette Lake on a warm Sunday

Alouette lake May13-07, late afternoon

morning. It’s tempting to believe that my life would be incrementally better if I only had a boat. It’s not true, but it’s easy to that it is. It was easier to be idealistic when I was younger. I still want a ski boat.

Being true to who you are and what you want out of life can be hard. It’s tempting to wander down little side roads that promise something quick, easy, and free. It’s often difficult to continue to give when you see others benefiting so heavily from taking. Most optimists end up as realists, pessimists who aren’t very self-aware. The rich do get richer and sometimes the assholes win. Often. Other people do have it easier than you might. Some of my friends did fall accidentally into opportunities I never had. Some did worse, but they don’t support my argument so I’ll pretend they don’t exist.

So many bitter old people. So many of us who have forgotten what we loved about living, forgotten to tip our heads into the sunshine. We have taken ourselves too seriously. There has been too much trauma, too much ‘water under the bridge’. Life is routine and pain and boredom and drama, all wrapped up into a little financially strapped ball of poop.

Learning to understand why your life has meaning is perhaps the meaning of life. Making peace with your demons, putting your hurts to rest, and refusing to get old and bitter, these are the real spiritual quests before us. Amazing lives are no accident. Spending more time reading psychology and philosophy, even theology defines those who are on a quest to be more than they were. Wisdom is the goal, contentment the gift.

It’s my birthday today and I’ve decided that I don’t want to get bitter, growing older. I really don’t want to spend the rest of my life feeling sorry for myself, blaming things on others. There are still scary and challenging mountains to climb, it’s just more and more tempting to sit on the sidelines. I want to be that old guy who is so alive he cannot be ignored.

Like my dad.