Story by Diane Haynes Woodburn
Rita is obsessing over her form. “It’s an eighth of a mile,” I assure her. “It will be over in three minutes. Form won’t matter; think content.”
Staff and friends of Maui No Ka ‘Oi have gathered on the beach for an outrigger canoe race, an amateur regatta to benefit local canoe clubs. Aside from Sara, who is to blame for getting us into this, and Jason, our staff photographer, none of us is a paddler. But that’s not the issue.
The issue is that Rita and I are a full generation older than most of the staff. We try to keep up—we own free weights, we do squats, we eat well (sort of). We also compare wrinkles, bulges, age spots and other reminders of our impending 60s, while our young colleagues roll their eyes in boredom.
Lately, our complaints have given way to serious discussions around our Healthy You issue. “What’s healthy?” Rita queries. “How far do we go to reclaim our youth?” Good questions. Is “healthy” a matter of lifestyle? Beauty? Essential oils? A spiritual pursuit?
When the Dalai Lama spoke here in March, 10,000 Mauians heard him say: “Pursue happiness.” That sounds healthy.
“Pretend there is a beach ball between you and the paddle.” Jason’s comment brings me back to the present, and the lesson he’s giving on form. “Keep your arms in a V and pull back, like this, darlin’,” he adds in his soft Southern drawl. Rita is mimicking Jason’s movements with a scholar’s intensity. I just like being called “darlin’.”
It’s our turn—but we need a steersman. Someone spots Olympic paddler Lauren Spalding (who went to kindergarten with my son). “Get Lauren!” Ashley implores. Suddenly I am Mother Hen, racing to the rescue, literally. In only a bikini and a pair of clunky Chacos, I’m running down the beach in full view of EVERYONE. “Lauren! We need you!” I shout. Fortunately, Lauren recognizes crisis mode when she sees it. Moments later she is at the canoe, helping us push off. Then everyone is in—except Rita and me. “Get in NOW!” Ceci shouts. Up to my neck in salt water, I manage to heave myself up and slither over the side of the canoe, Ashley grabbing the back of my suit bottom to help haul me in. It is hardly my most graceful entrance, but better than Rita’s memorable boarding—a technique she refers to as “ass over teakettle.” But I promised not to mention form.
“Dig!” Tootsie yells. We groan and power it out. “Deadline!” shouts Lauren, and we dig even harder, grunting our determination to cross the finish line first. And we do! Ahhh, joy, nirvana, food!
As our motley but ecstatic crew jumps and cheers in exhaustion and joy, I’m suddenly reminded of the Dalai Lama’s sage advice. Pursue happiness. Life, after all, is like a
canoe regatta: it’s all over so fast, and what really matters isn’t form—it’s content. Pass the cookies, please.
To your health,
A hui hou,
Diane Haynes Woodburn
Publisher, Maui No Ka ‘Oi