swan stretch

A gentle current of water, warm sun, a quiet breeze, old growth trees, cliffs, red tailed hawks and osprey – a long row of Canadian Geese, a good friend next to me, my air mattress and intimate conversation. Summer is now official. I made my first trip down the Sandy River. I was afraid a full work schedule and travel might have prevented it.

I went with Jill, a new friend from NYC, who arrived in my life a few months ago, complete with accent and spunky attitude. She was the perfect floating partner.

Going down the river is the finest purist thing I know. It is raw and timeless, a slow sensual communion with nature that carries away all emotional debris in a perfect blaze of splendor. Being on the river brings me fully and completely back to myself. Time stops, there are no tensions, worries, or problems. Mountain fed water and a burst of sun induce relaxation for mind and body that is deep and complete.

I never know what it will be like to float the river with someone else. Inviting a guest is always a gamble. The river is my special place so I am very careful about the person I share it with. Lucky for me, Jill was an ideal companion because she completely understood what it meant to be there. Thank you Karen, she said, I believe this was the best day of my whole life.  

My worst river partner was Neville, an older man who found it impossible to relax and just be. All he had to do was lie down on his belly and rest, but the poor fellow was incapable of relaxation. Instead, he propped his elbow against the inflatable pillow and perched his neck in the air like an awkward giraffe. He churned, lost his balance and plunged into the river repeatedly.

I pulled him to shore several times to teach him how to lie on the mattress.

See Neville, just like being home on the couch; all you have to do is close your eyes and nap.

But the lesson didn’t hold. Once his mattress was back on the water, he tensed up and began to twist, turn and battle. The river will take you. I insisted, there is nothing to do, but be like a leaf and allow yourself to be carried on the face of the current. You will move safely down.

Nothing worked until I instructed him to hold firmly to my toes. That gave his mind focus and dismantled his giraffe pose. By the time we reached the bottom, I was exhausted from paddling both his weight and mine. The experience had lost its charm and dear Neville had scrapes, bruises and drips of blood on his knee.

To my surprise he said the same thing Jill said, Karen, this was the best most exciting day of my life. We must do it again very soon! I smiled and wondered how quickly I could get an unlisted number.

Two summers ago I went down the Sandy with my daughter Kristen and my friend Joan. The sun was playing in shivering sparkles of light on the crest of each current. The blue sky warmed our skin and kissed my body. The combination felt like a deep sensual erotic bath.

Oh my God, I said in a sleepy voice, floating down the river on a day like today is better than having sex.

Joan turned her head in the same lazy manner and said, absolutely, this is amazing.

Then my daughter turned over and looked at us, incredulous.

You women must never have had good sex!

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