I’m not an adventurous person.
I am cautious to a fault, easily intimidated, afraid of the unknown and nervous about anything new.
I am shy. Crowds can be difficult…but so can smaller groups or even one on one conversations.
I don’t learn new things easily, especially if they involve speed, dexterity, coordination or mental agility.
I have to function out in this world, so I work at it.
I have managed to get married, have children, learn to swim, learn to roller skate, go to college, move to Beaver Island, learn to wait tables, get divorced, move to the city, go to graduate school, teach, open a business, write, display my art…in that order. Every one of these things terrified me but made my life better. Every one was worth the risk, made me feel enriched and capable.
By most standards, none of these “grand achievements” are much out of the ordinary.
I have had my moments, though.
I have had what I think of as “my year of adventure.”
It was about twenty years ago.
It started with heartbreak: a relationship ending.
After working on my marriage for fourteen years only to see it fail anyway, I wasn’t much for working on relationships. I had worked on this one though. We both had. Yet we each stubbornly held on to collected slights and resentments until the joy was gone.
And that was what I couldn’t live without.
So, I braved the heartache and moved on.
In that new open space, for a short time, I seemed to face the world differently.
I didn’t think of all the things that could go wrong. I simply asked, “Why not?”
I went for an airplane ride at dusk, to see the sunset from the sky.
I paddled a kayak out into the harbor.
I took a trip on a twenty-nine foot sailboat, as part of a three-person crew, from Beaver Island’s harbor down to Port Huron…five days and five nights on the water. In October. With a head wind all the way down Lake Huron. When my sister picked me up in Port Huron, I had lost ten pounds. “It was like bulimia camp,” I told her.
I traveled alone, to work on an archaeological dig on Grand Turk Island in the British West Indies. I met a dozen people of all ages from all over the United States, there to participate, as I was. I met islanders who in many ways were like my own Beaver Islanders. Stopping at a bar one night, a very slim black man with a lilting British accent admonished us, “You didn’t salute…,” for not waving as we passed him on the road that day. On this island, you’re called to account if you neglect to wave, too. I collected adventures there, and every night ran down to the ocean at sunset, in hopes of seeing the green flash as the sun sank into the water.
Back on Beaver Island, I went for a ride in a bi-plane. The passenger seat was in front; the pilot sat behind. We could communicate through our headsets.I was strapped in tight. The cockpit was open to the air. We started with a big forward somersault. As the nose of the plane started to go up, I closed my eyes. Vertigo, like you feel if you close your eyes when going up in a swing, had just started to make me queasy when the pilot said, “Do NOT close your eyes!” He’d been the captain on that sailboat…he was familiar with me and motion sickness! The somersault was followed by a couple barrel rolls and a spin of some kind, then we went for a scenic tour of the island. Above Font Lake, I saw Mike McGinnity down below, in his kayak. He looked up. Without thinking, I threw out my arm to wave. The wind caught my arm…and pulled it. Hard. It took all of my strength to retrieve it. “Keep your arms inside the cockpit,” came the curt directive from the pilot.
I took a new route on my evening walk, ending up lost for hours in the woods and swamps behind Fox Lake.
I didn’t make a decision, ever, to stop having adventures…to quit asking, “Why not?” Even when things did not go as planned, I felt daring and brave.
It seems that things just gradually settled down…opportunities did not present themselves.
I carry that year with me, though, and I’m proud to know that inside of me – meek as I am – lives an adventurer!