The Detroit River was like glass last night as the bright late-day sun reflected on small surface ripples.
I was tired when I arrived at rowing. All the way down there, on the highway, driving at top speed amid rush hour peers, the conversation in my head refuted the beauty of rowing. Just stay home. You’re tired. It’s ok to miss a day. Besides, you already worked out at the gym earlier.
But still I drove. And when I got there, my husband waiting in the gravel parking lot, I pulled myself out of the car and dragged toward the boat docks.
I still didn’t really want to row. I knew it would be hard and long. I knew I was tired. The kids’ first week back at school has us all in a frenzy, with early morning alarm clocks ringing loud and late night frantic searching for that last page of homework.
Nevertheless, I did not turn back for home. I walked with my seven boat mates and lifted the eight-person hull off its perch, hefted it to our shoulders, and walked it silently to the dock.
There is a rhythm to the way we lift the boat and place it in the water. It’s heavy, immense, long, and still we do it in unison, our outside foot to the edge of the dock, flipping the hull onto the river’s surface.
We place our oars and secure the locks with the same rhythm, and lower ourselves into our seats all as one. And then our coxswain leads us away from the dock and into open water.
I absolutely love rowing. And even though I was tired, I was not about to turn back and shrug off my commitment. After all, we only have until the end of September to stroke the glorious water. Then, we pack up the boats for the season and wait until next spring, when the river thaws and we eagerly get back on the water.
I have two nights left to do this sport that I love. And I am so glad, sore and tired today still, that I did it last night.
We rowed from the Boat Club to the Yacht Club (1,500 meters), then past the docked sailboats until we hit open water. Last night, boats with taut white sails dotted the water. It was a still evening but so many souls had taken to the river. We rowed two eights and a four, lilting in the wake of a passing freighter, a party boat, a fast jet-skier.
On the river, I feel one with the water, so close to the surface, overcome with the rhythm of waves lapping against the hull. Sometimes, I almost want to dive beneath the surface just to be one with the current.
When we reached the tip of the island, we turned the boat in rhythmic order and sat still, waiting for the coach to call, “At the ready…row!” The current lapped us ahead, making the return trip easier, despite its length.
We moved along the surface silently, hefting into each stroke, stoked on by the encouraging coxswain at our helm.
After, tired, spent, satisfied, we unlocked our oars, put them back on the shelf, and lifted the boat overhead, to return it to its rightful perch. The sun had already sunk behind the bridge, and night was coming on in a quiet blue-gray.
This morning, I could feel the soreness of muscles used well along the course of our journey last night. That’s what we want to feel in this life, the reassurance of every effort put forth fully and completely, knowing we give it our all, trying our best every time.