this is not a review: ‘deep water passage’, by ann linnea

 

The first time I read Ann Linnea’s Deep Water Passage, I had never kayaked and was more interested in the idea of solitude and running away into the woods. Boats were incidental.

Since then I’ve become the owner of a boat named Lulabelle and spend summer mornings on a pond communing with swans and so have gained some enormous respect for the physical aspects of what Linnea must have experienced as she circumnavigated the entire coastline of Lake Superior… she was the first woman to do so. It took her 65 days.

A really lovely aspect of the book is that it was written before social media and cell phones and pictures of EVERYTHING and people setting out on adventures for the sole purpose of writing books about their adventures. Although that may well have been Linnea’s intention… it doesn’t come across that way.

There are NO pictures. Not one.

Often, people who undertake this kind of extraordinary challenge, do so because of something they need to work out in their personal life and Linnea is no exception. The inner journey becomes a subtle undercurrent to the stroke stroke stroke rhythm of the story, the thing that moves it forward.

The tension isn’t found simply in how she fights ten foot waves, wind, rain and cold, we know she survives it all, it’s more this other, inner quest, that begins to overshadow the physical hurdles, coming to her as an almost surprise, presenting her with questions and decisions she knows she needs to make about what she wants to return to and who she’ll be returning as. The questions come in forms she didn’t expect and one of her greatest worries is about her kids, that they won’t welcome a mother who is more herself.

“For six weeks the importance of truth-telling
had been hammered into me by the lake…
The message I [had for] my children was correct,
there was more I was supposed to learn.”

That said, and despite the feat of paddling a notoriously tough and unpredictable lake, it remains the kind of book where not much happens.

You really have to like inner reflection and weather.

Two of my favourite things.

There is also dampness, and aching wrists, sore bodies, the immense peace of cooking a simple meal over a fire, breathing deeply and sleeping under a sky chock full of stars.

By the end of the book it occurs to me that the real story is the one I read the first time. The one that doesn’t require understanding of how a paddle feels in your hands. The real story is the old story, the every-story, the timeless one we’re all writing our own version of… a personal story of the what’s it all about, alfie nature that anyone can relate to and a story that can be revealed and realized via any journey for the price of wanting it enough.

Lake Superior just happens to be Linnea’s blank page.

“There comes a time in our lives when we are
called to believe the unbelievable. If we allow ourselves
to believe, we open the door to the infinite possibility
of who we might become.”