Upstate NY

Melting the Stress Away One Canoe Ride at a Time

canoe ride on Hudson River

First day out, landed in Albany, NY and headed towards Little Falls, NY for a wedding.  An idle moment is never an option so our first stop was to explore the Howe Caverns.  We were transported by elevator 150 feet below the surface to explore the caverns.  As the 52 degree temperature cooled my body, I began to enjoy the colors that highlighted the rock formations.   Discovered by a farmer about a 130 years ago when he noticed that his cows constantly circled around an area in his field because they were cooling off from the underground caverns. He quickly realized the economic potential of having this attraction on his land and offered tours of the caverns.  The irony is that as huge and timeless as these formations are, they are so fragile, that a single touch from your finger can cause the growth process to cease.  The elevator to the floor of the caverns made it convenient but I believe I like the more natural caverns we have visited in the past.  Did have a boat ride and must admit, the tune “It’s a Small World” crept into by head and couldn’t help but hum it as I watch the guide maneuver the tight turns holding onto the ceiling and pulling the boat around the tight corners. Felt like I was back at Turner Tunnels kayaking as the mangrove walls got smaller and smaller.

Long time friends from South Florida had invited us to their daughter’s wedding.  Less than a week before the wedding the bride’s grandfather passed away from cancer.  Momentarily the thought was brought forward to postpone the wedding, but everyone believed that her grandfather would not have wanted that to happen.  It was a beautiful wedding in a historic church with the reception in a castle like setting.  A very happy wedding, surrounded by family and friends in a bittersweet moment.

Next stop was Watkins Glen State Park in upstate NY. Watkins Glen State Park is the most famous of the Finger Lakes State Parks, with a reputation for leaving visitors spellbound. Within two miles, the glen’s stream descends 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs, generating 19 waterfalls along its course. The gorge path winds over and under waterfalls and through the spray of Cavern Cascade.  We were fortunate to enter at the top end and walk down.  It was much less commercialized at the top.  After walking the many steps down the gorge we took the trail along the rim back up to save the knees for the rest of the week.   Reminded me of the times that we forced the kids to take these hikes and I hope they remember them favorably enough to want to enjoy these outdoor splendors with their families one day.
From there we traveled a short distance to the Watkins Glen Wine Festival.   Under 3 tents were over 80 wineries offering taste of their wines along with vendors selling cheeses, dips, chocolates to taste, arts and crafts to purchase and music to enjoy.  A unique experience and a fine way to create a full day of sightseeing.  I enjoyed my conversations with a breast cancer survivor selling pink ribbon chocolate bars for her Relay for Life team and another breast cancer organization team selling items to benefit research in the NY area.   They were dedicated, committed and caring individuals willing to give their time for a worthy cause.   Guess I will have to figure out what to create in clay and decide which organization to work with when I get home.             

Since vacations with my husband are about movement, I decided that I would create a movement meditation discipline on our outings. Hikes; right foot, left foot worked as I step down the hundreds of steps at Watkins Glen reciting to myself breathe in, breathe out.  Glen did teach me a useful tip for going uphill and I incorporated that as I expanded my chest out, leaned from my core with head high.  It did seem to work, guess that expansion of the chest wall created more space for oxygen.  Have to bring that tip back to my clients when they realize that they need to exercise and can’t exert enough energy to make it happen.

Had to resort to Plan B the next day and leave the Finger Lakes area of NY and head to the Adirondacks.  It seems that we needed to transport our own bikes to enjoy the scenery, bike rentals was not an option.  Early morning research had us on a 4 hour drive to Lake George.  Sometimes you just have to adjust, reevaluate, and move on.  It was a good decision as we found a motel on the lake with a canoe and that became my morning movement meditation.

Pottery gives me the movement meditation that I need. Canoeing feels similar as when I concentrate at my pottery wheel; calming, reflective, my mind might wander, but in order to save the pot I must acknowledge a thought and then get back to the moment.  Refocusing, redirecting, renewing, remembering and reconnecting that is what pottery does for me, but canoeing creates that same feeling on the water.

All things change when we canoe.  It is the one time that my need to not overturn allows me to take instructions from my husband on the basics of canoeing; 3 point contact, even strokes, learn to turn, and most importantly go into the wake of jet skis and boats.   Balance is important and every move must be thought through to avoid overturning.  Every action has a reaction and I am always ever mindful of that, especially with phones and cameras along.  And it is the only time I get to set the course, determine how long we stay out, the speed, and what side I canoe on.  If my right arm gets tired, my husband must switch sides as well.  It is one time that we are in sync with each other.  If I really get tired, I become the “Princess” and sit back and relax.

My movement meditation comes into play with the stroke of the paddle.  To paddle correctly, I am pulling myself through the water and when I do it perfectly it seems effortless.  Core muscles are being used with each stroke and it allows me to know that I can still accomplish a physical sport without a lot of pain.  When you paddle on the right side of the canoe, your left hand is on the grip, change sides change hand position.  My husband reminded me that I wasn’t doing that and when I corrected myself it became much easier, a stronger stroke.  Yes, I can take instructions.  As I paddled I tried to concentrate on three movements, pull the blade back to my hip, elevate and swing to the front, position to begin again.  It was fun to focus on the scenery, concentrating on my breathing techniques, while incorporating movement.  Tried to remember some of the slogans in the gift shops to create the perfect hour on the water each morning;  Do What Makes You Happy, Count Your Blessings,  Dance to the Song of Life, Dream, Laugh, Hope, Do What Makes Your Heart Sing, Believe the Impossible and Life is Good. 

 My goal is to remember the 4 mornings on the lake, go back to that place and time when life gets tough.  Maybe try to share my canoeing experience and recreate it on land as a gentle exercise for my clients that have undergone surgery and need movement in their upper body restored. Who knows, might even interest them in trying out an actual canoe ride. Dragon boat teams of breast cancer survivors must train correctly to feel the power of their strokes. 

For anyone who is the Lake George area I strongly recommend an extreme adventure experience for your family members who need physical challenge.  The Adirondack Extreme Adventure Course in Bolton Landing, NY is an exhilarating tree-to-tree experience that takes place from 10 to 50 feet above the ground.  Glen was skeptical that it would not be challenging enough, but 4 hours later he acknowledge it was one of the hardest and most fun courses he had ever done.

As a slow and easy day we headed to the Adirondack Museum.  While Glen got his fill of boats and trains and logging history of the area, I strolled the grounds getting a sense of the history of the mountains and the people who braved the harsh environment.  What sticks in my head was the Indian guide from the region as he talked about the land.  He said, “Think about what you do and how it will affect 7 generations from now.”  To me it meant more than that, not just for the land, but our health, what we pass on that keeps being passed on to the next generations.  We do have the responsibility to not only take care of the environment for future generations, but instill healthy habits that include body, mind and spirit.

 Heading to the airport we stopped at Saratoga Springs, using up the last minutes of the trip with lunch in the city park and meandering around the town.  Lots of activity and excitement because the track was opening the next day and it was a “Hats Off Day”.  Breast cancer causes seem to find me, walked into a gift store to see gift cards being sold and the profits going to a local organization .  It seems to be a common thread that wraps around us all.
As caregivers we all need to take big breaks, remember how important it felt to feel relaxed on trips, photo-journal it,  so that we can  go back and remember those times when your heart beat a bit slower, you were in the moment of peace and tranquility and found the………. ” right chair for the right place.”