Many years ago, Peter and I spent some time with an excellent local couples' therapist, Dr. Stephen Cohn, and we often return to a metaphor for healthy partnerships that he gave us then. He noted (like Rilke before him) that couples often feel a strong impulse to merge, to surrender their independence for a fantasy of perfect communion; he likened this to giving up the captaincy of our respective boats. Throughout the time we saw him, Dr. Cohn encouraged us to recognize and protect our essential sovereignty, never to abdicate our navigational responsibilities. "Same lake, different boats," he'd remind us whenever we got anxious over our inevitable conflicts (big and small) in judgment, value, perspective, preference, etc.
Dr. Cohn's choice of image might not have worked for us if we didn't both love water so well. I particularly love water that moves; I find living in a river town the next best thing to living on the coast. Pete doesn't share my bias against containment, as he's been "repairing" to Lake Tahoe all his life. (Granted, it's a big lake, and its deep waters are not still.) He's also more catholic in his enjoyment of different modes of being at or on or in the water. He's a proficient sailor and rower, while I'm only comfortable swimming and paddling. Even that second activity is relatively new to me. We celebrated my getting "doctored" in 2003 with a guided kayaking trip in the San Juan Islands, and I bought a boat a few years after that. Unfortunately, in a flush of "can-do" enthusiasm and a bit of careless portage, I separated my shoulder and lost all early momentum. We did pool our REI dividends to get a second boat five years ago, but between one thing and another - you know how it goes - we've been out maybe ten times.
Ten plus two. I really wanted to take advantage of this recent and rather novel sense of physical well-being before another surgery (tomorrow morning) knocks it out of me - I hope very temporarily - and we both wanted to take advantage of these spectacular summer days while they last. Thursday afternoon, we put in at Willamette Park and paddled north (against map gravity but downriver) to admire Portland's newest bridge from below. It's a beauty.
I figured that we should let laziness and inertia work in our favor for once, so I persuaded Pete to leave the boats sitting atop our car for a couple of nights. Yesterday morning we set out again, this time from the other side of the river and in a southerly direction. We glided between the doubled columns that support the Sellwood Bridge(s) old and new, passed mansion-dwelling yogis and golfers whose absence was noted at morning mass, saluted a man on a "hydro-bike" and a bald eagle who flew so low over my head that I could admire his yellow talons and their black blades.
Yes, we definitely need to do this more often.