Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Trip Notes

Winding Waters Rafting & Yoga Retreat on the Salmon River, Idaho

August 17th - 21st 2009

Notes and recollections recorded by Rob Brooks (no dates or times - we’re on river time):

Day 1 – Fear, doubts, new experiences…

Put in at Pine Bar and get wet…

Matt did his first set of rapids… he was jostled, drenched, and wondered if the guide knew what he was doing

Elizabeth was petrified and exhilarated after riding the first rapid on a raft… her infectious laugh made everyone smile

Penny, the geologist, was a font of river knowledge and lore… her mantra for handling the raft is ‘face my danger and be ready to back away with my strong pull stroke

Gail let the yellow jackets eat her grape, called them her environmental friends, and enjoyed shared spirit with natural creatures, especially the mating dragonflies

Scott enjoyed watching Craig’s challenge of getting back into his kayak after the first time he fell out, and seeing a million stars in the sky at night

Christy enjoyed falling asleep and waking up under the stars

Rob (Frisbee Boy) hit the wall in the rapids and managed to push off and stay in his kayak (upright)… brought out a Frisbee and managed to get hit on the nose with it… Craig (Mother Theresa of the trip) applied bacitracin ointment for the rest of the week

Shannon had a perfect Pine Bar Rapid run, and enjoyed naming Rob ‘Frisbee Boy’

Craig had fun helping everyone do handstands on a chair and sharing his supply of Monvie with anyone who would let him pour it down their throat

Putting up tents for the first time was amusing… how does this pole go through and over there?

James did a perfect job of cooking the wild Alaskan salmon

Yvonne enjoyed the fabulous dinner and making new friends

Laura enjoy singing around the campfire (everyone knew one verse – but only one - of dozens of songs), geology lesson, and petroglyphs… she didn’t enjoy getting stung by a wasp, whose sting troubled her for the rest of the week (environmental friends???)

Penny enjoyed watching everyone get into ‘relax mode’

Day 2 - Gaining Confidence and Skill

Laura fell out of her kayak in Lorna’s Lulu rapid headed for a big wall… in less than 5 seconds, she was back in the kayak, skirted disaster with deft paddle strokes, avoided the wall, and shot on down the rapid (which was renamed ‘Laura’s Lulu’)… she celebrated by doing Upward Facing Plank on her duckie… the best Craig could do to match that was Lounge Pigeon

Elizabeth enjoyed the feeling of power on her first duckie kayak ride… like everyone, she really liked the yoga circle that Todd and Paul made, especially the rock pile at the center with seven stones representing the seven chakras

Piloting raft #1 alone while Paul and Scott were swimming a rapid, Rob lost an oar… Matt came to the rescue and retrieved the oar and Rob was able to row the raft out of a big eddy…

We spotted a beaver on a rock by the edge of the river

Day 3 - Getting Into the Groove (or out of it)

Rob’s Eveready Battery ran down and he really started to relax… always the first one up, he enjoyed watching the sun coming up over the east canyon wall, as the shadows of the night disappeared down the west canyon wall… then solo yoga on a rock above camp and by the river’s edge… there’s something special about yoga in the wild… you see the world differently… the river is always there, ever present, ever changing… the valley is the vessel that holds it, just as I am the vessel that holds my ever changing life… there are rapids and eddies, deep currents and shallow bars, and it flows on until it reaches the ocean, to be reincarnated as clouds, rain, snow, a creek, a river, a spring… it is a ‘magic carpet’day… meditating alone by the river, I fly out over the river on my magic carpet… lying in savasana after yoga, I fly down a rapid on the energy that flows from the river…

On the river it is a ‘big water’ day… class 4 rapids

Gail is the mermaid… kayaking and swimming all day… sitting on a rock in the river she is the incarnation of the mermaid statue that grace Copenhagen’s harbor

Christy has a ball in the kayak… has a class 4 rapid ‘out of boat experience’ but manages to hang onto her paddle; with help from Craig and Scott, she is back in her kayak and ready for the next rapid

Nathan discovered a new form of pranayama practice… when your kayak turns over, you stick your head up into it and breathe… ‘sub-duckie pranayama’

The weather got warmer and everyone enjoyed the ‘marination station’ at lunch…

Laura’s wasp sting got bigger

Matt spent the whole day in a kayak… it was ‘bodacious’, and Yvonne swam, swam, swam

Craig joined Todd and James on the gear boat and rowed it all morning… awesome fun, even backwards

By evening everyone was pretty worn out… we even skipped evening yoga… enjoyed solar showers and Shannon pulled out the cutest ‘little black dress’, yes, even on a river rafting trip…we enjoyed margaritas (aka riveritas) and fajitas, and especially peach cobbler out of the dutch oven… by 9PM everyone fell asleep to the roar of the river and the twinkling of the stars…

Day 4 – Old Hands on the River

James joins yoga practice for the first time… he does incredibly well for a yoga newbie…

Special breakfast… eggs benedict… mmmm…

Laura and Elizabeth set out to bring sleeping pads down to the beach to load up on the rafts, but end up making a slide down the steep sandy bank… playful otters…

Warm weather, so it’s another marination station lunch…

Rob and Matt shared the day on the Good n’ Plenty with Shannon… learned about raft housekeeping (no sand on this raft), doing the jaguar in the rapids to keep the bow of the light raft down (and have fun in the spray)… Shannon manages her raft remarkably with short efficient oar strokes… being a dancer gives her great propriocentation… but not quite enough to keep her from toppling over helping Rob get back into the raft after a swim in a rapid… the Eveready Battery showed signs of life and he flew into the raft as if the river had ejected him… then it was Rob’s turn to pull Matt in… he made sure that Matt got all the way in, and then some, and poor Matt was afraid he was going to be shoved through the bottom of the raft…

Everyone enjoyed jumping from a 30’ cliff into the river, hearts racing… even cool, calm, gymnast Laura had to step back from the edge for a moment to regain her composure before she could jump… this was the first time Shannon got to do the jump…

Craig was getting dehydrated by the end of the day, and we reached campsite just in time… Elizabeth found a little rattlesnake in the rocks by the swimming hole…

This was a special evening… great campsite at the entrance to Blue Canyon… we all started with a hike to a hilltop nearby and a great view of the canyon… hilltop was a little too small and rocky for yoga… James impressed everyone by hiking the hill barefoot… later waxed eloquent on the benefits of running barefoot…

Dinner was extra good… vegetable curry and good wine… toasts all around (great wines from Matt and Yvonne) and dutch oven brownies for dessert… finished off with shots of Jaegermeister courtesy of Nathan…

Those who stayed up late enough enjoy Todd’s late show… adult light show shadow puppets on the latrine screen… Elizabeth laughed until tears were running down her face…

Everyone slept out of tents… lots of shooting starts and the milky way was extra bright…

Day 5 – Confluence and Farewell

An early start, and the whole crew in a good mood… almost everyone has been in the water so much that they feel like they’re rocking to the waves even when they’re sitting still… the narrow canyon and rapid river flow bring on vertigo, and a sense that the river is standing still and the canyon walls are moving…

A few more fast rapids, and then the confluence with the Snake… lash the rafts together, deflate the duckies, and motor down the big river… actually, there were a few more rapids, and Paul again demonstrated his superb river skills navigating the ‘barge’ through them…

Just past the confluence with the Grand Ronde, we return to civilization… hop in the van for and back to Clarkston… quick farewells and the experience is over… or is it?

Pictures of this Retreat will be posted at LauraNidra Yoga shortly...


Underwater Love



Stepping back into life after a nourishing and transformative retreat can parallel navigating a class four rapid; scouting the run prior to putting-in is recommended. When genuinely open to the retreat experience, the ‘to-do’ lists that clutter and fill my fast- paced urban lifestyle, fade away. Attention is now free to explore the moment-to-moment unfolding of my existence. In the beats between I am succinctly aware of the awesomeness of my perfectly unique experience while humbled to the omnipotence of Mother Nature. And so it was with the Rafting & Yoga Retreat I co-lead with Winding Waters Rafting of Joseph, Oregon.

A teachers once said that energy follows attention and that attention, at its core, is Love. So hard did I fall for the majesty of the Salmon River that upon my return to Seattle I felt a stranger to my self-identified city girl reality – naked and disoriented. On the massage table a few days later I realized that I had essentially left a piece of my Self on the river. The image of a piece of my heart quite literally flying out of my body to commune in the wilderness sent ripples down my spine. And what of the vacancy sign flashing in my chest? Lyrics from the Postal Service song titled “Such Great Heights” chime in:

I am thinking it’s a sign that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images and when we kiss they perfectly align. And I have to speculate that God himself did make us into corresponding shapes like puzzle pieces from the clay.

Is that what love is? A Donnie Darko style worm flowing from my chest toward a reciprocal sized portal in another? Is that why after a break-up the clich├ęd, “I’ll always carry a piece of you in my heart” is universally understood, even by the cynic. One Valentine’s Day a lover sent me an anonymous story chronicling the valor of the heart’s trials and tribulations:

One day a young man was stood in the middle of the town proclaiming that he had the most beautiful heart in the whole valley. A large crowd gathered to admired his heart, for it was perfect. There was not a mark or a flaw in it. Yes, they all agreed it truly was the most beautiful heart they had ever seen. The young man was very proud and boasted more loudly.

Suddenly, an old man appeared at the front of the crowd and said, "Why your heart is not nearly as beautiful as mine."

The crowd and the young man looked at the old man's heart. It was beating strongly, but full of scars, it had places where pieces had been removed and other pieces put in, but they didn't fit quite right and there were several jagged edges. In fact, in some places there were deep gouges where whole pieces were missing.

The people stared. “How can he say that his heart is more beautiful?”

The young man looked at the state of the old man's heart and laughed. “You must be joking," he said. "Compare your heart with mine, mine is perfect and yours is a mess of scars and tears."

"Yes," said the old man, "Yours is perfect looking but I would never trade with you. You see, every scar represents a person to whom I have given my love. I tear out a piece of my heart and give it to them, and often they give me a piece of their heart which fits into the empty place in my heart, but because the pieces aren't exact, I have some rough edges, which I cherish, because they remind me of the love we shared. Sometimes I have given pieces of my heart away, and the other person hasn't returned a piece of his heart to me. These are the empty gouges . . . giving love is taking a chance. Although these gouges are painful, they stay open, reminding me of the love I have for these people too, and I hope someday they may return and fill the space I have waiting.

“So now do you see what true beauty is?"

The young man stood silently with tears running down his cheeks. He walked up to the old man, reached into his perfect young and beautiful heart and ripped a piece out. He offered it to the old man with trembling hands. The old man took his offering, placed it in his heart and then took a piece from his scarred heart and placed it in the wound of the young man's heart. It fit, but not perfectly, as there were some jagged edges.

The young man looked at his heart, not perfect anymore but more beautiful than ever, since love from the old man's heart flowed into his. They embraced and walked away side by side.

How sad it must be to go through life with a whole heart.

As a romantic, I have been know to wax poetically key lines from Baz Lurhman’s Romeo & Juliet and Moulin Rouge but my idea of love has evolved beyond Cameron Crowe’s “You complete me.” I prefer the image of two neighboring trees, strong and rooted in and of themselves, creating a intricate canopy of multi-colored leaves and curvaceous limbs overhead. And in between, where the sky breaks through, the eternal dance of offering and receiving, the microcosm and the macrocosm and all the shades of blue along the way.

The River, a consistent and generous lover, always gives back. I would argue the same is true of all relationships of any label if we are willing to see beyond the duality of positive and negative experience and welcome what is. It is a matter of trust. Faith that we are right where we need to be and life, like scars and wrinkles, give us character.

In Greek philosophy and science water is commonly associated with emotion and intuition. In Wiccan tradition water represents wisdom, the soul and femininity. And then there is the Moon. Its no small wonder the retreat so powerfully touched my soul, honed my intuition and resulted in these ruminations on love.

In the dream realm rivers can symbolize a journey; either physical, emotional or spiritual. On the last day of our distinct, but not separate, journey down the Salmon River we eddied out at the confluence of the Snake & Salmon Rivers. Twenty plus flotilla miles later the retreat would come to an end but for the time being we were together moved to offer and give back to the River. Honoring the interconnectedness of all things we harmonized our voices and let the wind and the current take its vibration out into the universe. Our bodies and our hearts close to follow we fell back into the river, cool and cleansing, and like the swan in Rilke’s poem, content to be carried.

The laboring through what is still undone, as though, legs bound, we hobbled along the way, is like the awkward walking of the swan.

And to die - which is the letting go of the ground we stand on and cling to every day, is like the swan, when he nervously lets himself down into the water, which receives him gaily and which flows joyfully under and after him,

wave after wave,

while the swan, unmoving and marvelously calm,

is pleased to carried, each moment more fully grown,

more like a king, further and further on.

I’ll keep floating on with a therapist of the both the physical and emotional leaning in tow to help me ground and integrate my experience and put it into these words.


Photos of this Retreat will be posted to LauraNidra Yoga shortly....