Rita, my senior editor, 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 N¯o Ka ‘Oi have gathered on the beach for an outrigger canoe race, an amateur regatta to benefit local canoe clubs. Aside from Sara Smith, our associate publisher, who is to blame for getting us into this, and Jason Moore, 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 the rest the staff. We try to keep up — we own free weights, we do squats and we eat well (sort of). We also compare wrinkles, bulges, age spots and other reminders of our impending 60s, while our younger colleagues roll their eyes in boredom.
Lately, our complaints have given way to serious discussions around health. “What’s healthy?” Rita queries. “How far do we go to reclaim our youth?” Good questions. Is “healthy” a matter of lifestyle or a spiritual pursuit?
When the Dalai Lama spoke in here March, 2007, 10,000 Mauians heard him say: “Pursue happiness.” That sounds healthy. “Pretend there is a beach ball between you and the paddle,” says Jason, bringing me back to the present moment and his
lesson on paddling form. “Keep your arms in a V and pull back — like this, darlin’,” he adds in his soft Southern drawl, and Rita mimics Jason’s movements with a scholar’s intensity; I just like being called “darlin’.”
Our turn to compete is just minutes away — but we need a steersman. Someone spots Olympic paddler Lauren Spalding (who, by the way, went to kindergarten with my son). “Get Lauren!” Ashley implores. I run to the rescue, charging down the beach in full view of everyone in just a bikini and a pair of clunky Chacos. “Lauren! We need you!” I shout. Fortunately, Lauren recognizes crisis mode when she sees it, and moments later is at the canoe, helping us push off. Then everyone is in — except Rita and me. “Get in now!” Ceci shouts. I’m now up to my neck in salt water, but 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’s hardly graceful, but it’s better than Rita’s technique, which she refers to as “ass over teakettle.” But then again, I promised not to mention form.
“Dig!” Tootsie yells. We groan and power it out, stroke after stroke until it seems our bodies can do no more. “Deadline!” shouts Lauren, and we dig even harder, grunting our determination to reach the finish line first. And we do! Ahhh, joy, nirvana, food!
As our motley, ecstatic crew cheers with exhaustion and joy, I’m reminded again of the Dalai Lama’s sage advice: Pursue happiness. Life is, after all, like a canoe regatta: it’s over very fast, and what really matters isn’t form — it’s content. Pass the cookies, please.
To your happiness, no matter what form it comes in.