Chris and I met through a network of outdoors people, and it was in that he asked me to marry him. He’d just become a landed immigrant, it was my birthday, and we’d been out for the evening. His words were matter-of-fact as always: “When do you want to get married, then?” I remember my response as something like, “I don’t want an engagement ring — I want a kayak.”
In the thirty years since his terse proposal, we’ve had our share of adventures as a couple and with our children, both of whom are now competent outdoors people. A number of our outings have involved canoes or kayaks. However, they’ve always been the rented variety; we’ve never actually owned a kayak. I’ve reminded him countless times, albeit lightheartedly, of his failure to make good on the deal. “I still haven’t got my kayak!” The reason my reminders have always remained lighthearted is that we both completely understand my request for the kayak was a metaphor for my wanting our lives together to include a full share of adventures and explorations.
I think it was in Albania, on a road that wound along a forested ridge; I stopped and looked out across a series of ranges that receded in shades of blue towards a mist that hung over the Adriatic. I thought back to , when I probably couldn’t have located Albania on a map, let alone known that it had stunning scenery, friendly citizens, and delicious cake. Nor could I have then conceived of a pair of fifty-somethings being able to complete a kilometre trans-continental journey by bicycle, or that the pair could possibly be us.
“I don’t need a kayak,” I announced. I told Chris I formally released him from any obligation I’d previously insisted he had, and promised that I wouldn’t ask again. This journey more than fulfilled the spirit of the “kayak.”
Thank you, Chris.