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An 8 on the Detroit River last night by the Detroit Boat Club.

Seats 3 and 4 – ROW!

My husband’s strong shoulders and back leaned forward and I followed his lead, me in seat 3, he in seat 4, as we slid up on the seat, bent our knees, dipped the blade of the oar into the wavy Detroit River waters and pulled back in sync.

Good, 3 and 4. Good rowing together!

Really? As a married couple embarking on Learn to Row together this summer, we wondered if we would be an asset to one another on the water, or a detriment. Apparently, we had nothing to worry about.

The water peeled back with each stroke, and our efforts moved the boat. The other six rowers were silent, lulled by the current, watching the shore slide by, in respectful silence as we poured effort from the core of our beings.

There is so much to know. And yet, when you are going through the stroke, it’s as if your body takes over and you just do it, forward and back, effort to pull, slow on the recovery, again and again and again as the boat glides along the water’s surface.

Look at that incredible lowering sun last night, with a view of the Belle Isle Bridge. I simply love rowing.
Look at that incredible lowering sun last night, with a view of the Belle Isle Bridge. I simply love rowing.

The Detroit River is cold and deep, and a mile or so across. The eight-person boat is narrow and carefully crafted. We hold it with precision, carrying it from land to water and back again, and in the middle, settling in perfect unison on the seats, cradling the oars, doing our part to make the whole group move in unison.

A marriage – any relationship, really – is a perfect orchestration of steps and missteps. The arguments and silly bickering, the love notes and long luxurious nights, all of that comes in perfect formation of luck. Sometimes you are in sync, and sometimes you are really, really not.

In rowing, you must be in sync or something will go horribly wrong.

Except that if you tip or get your oar stuck in the water (catch a crab), or bang into the person in front of you or behind you, you can recover. You can learn. You can improve.

So, too, in marriage. In love. Good days and bad days, when all the bills are paid, or none are, things shift and change direction as easily as the wind affects the river.

Rowing is a perfect metaphor for life. The eight of us are to sit in diligent silence, listening for the call of the coxswain, and the rest of the time simply listening and observing, resting and enjoying, drinking in the incredible lulling beauty all around.

The couple that rows together, stays together. Or something like that.
The couple that rows together, stays together. Or something like that.

There is a meditation quality to rowing. Even on the machines as we warm up and learn the strokes, and certainly on the water. there’s that point when you are just rowing, not thinking about it, just moving back and forth, again and again, the water cresting beside you, as you glide on past.

That is the point when all is right in the world and we are in an absolute place of being. The momentous moment, the right-now.

It’s incredibly freeing.

Why, then, do we spend so much of our lives worrying about so far ahead or so far past? Why do we not just look at this pen on the desktop, or this Bach cello suite on the Sonos, or the incredibly audible sigh of some animal outside the window and then it meanders past as if it never was there?

All these things and more happen in copious moments that we never notice because we’re so busy not standing still.

Think about that.

Or don’t.

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