How to Read the River and Other Lessons Learned In a Kayak

Now is probably a good time to tell you that despite my high maintenance tendencies, I spent last weekend dipping my feet into the muddy waters of the Shenango.

My Mother has always said that her idea of camping is a 4-star hotel. I’ve always agreed. That’s not to be snobby, it’s just that neither of us are “one with nature.” My Father, an entirely different story. For as long as I can remember, he has said “Meghan, you come from a long line of pioneers.”

He walks the walk. Literally. He just got back from the Appalachian Trail (his blog).

To me, “a long line of pioneers” means that I want to know about the famous relatives (here, here, here).


I spent the month of July focused on the launch a major project at work while working on finals.  I consumed obscene amounts of coffee and fantasized about spa days and reading fiction. I don’t know how I pulled it off, but when I did I was about 5 seconds away from Rachel Zoe vertigo and total burnout.

So, I decided I’d take the month of August to regroup and recharge, which led me to visit my parents’ camp last weekend. Sporting my chicest straw hat and oversized sunnies, I headed to the river with my Dad to go kayaking.

On our way to the river, my Dad advised, “You have to be sure to read the river.”

I replied, “What does that mean?”

“The river will tell you which path to take. It will tell you which areas to avoid so that you don’t get stuck. You will receive direction by paying attention to where the current is flowing”.

“What if I can’t read it?”

“Follow me and go with your gut.”

So I read the river, I followed him, and I went with my gut.

I asked “How do you really know what is coming around the bend?”

He said, “You don’t – that is the exciting part. You just have to be prepared to respond. And, you have to stay calm.”

Then I got stuck on a rock. The water was rushing around me, and I felt like I was moving backward and forward at the same time but I wasn’t actually moving at all. Vertigo indeed.

Next, we came upon a whirlpool. The whirlpool is like the traffic circle of a river, except you get stuck in a holding pattern. The most dangerous part is the undertow. If you are so unfortunate to find yourself caught in an undertow, my father advised, you should swim directly into it. If you confront the undertow head on by swimming into it, it will spit you out on the other side. Most people expend energy fighting the whirlpool, instead of confronting it head on. They drown.

I couldn’t stop thinking about business. Or maybe that is the point of this leisure time, to open the mind to conclusions that would not otherwise be reached during the sprint through a to-do list. Regardless, there are valuable lessons here.

Pay attention to the signs. Respond. Follow and learn from those who are more experienced than you. Tap your intuition. Don’t panic. When you find yourself thrown in circles by a make-it-or-break-it challenge, confront it head on. Don’t expend vital energy trying to swim the other way.

Photo Credit: dwstucke



  1. Love this post Meghan! The only thing I want to know is… what kind of shoes were you wearing?!?

  2. Lauren! $5 target flip flops. black…faux snake skin. They wash up well, but are very slippery when wet!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: