I could tell within fifteen minutes that I was going to have a good time at the 2013 gathering. At times I am dense, but over the years I have learned a hard won lesson, that many times one’s attitude and mood are a decision. On the drive to Alexandria I had decided to be happy. Jacquelyn and I had spent time discussing the dynamics of the event last year. Spending this time helped me frame the event in a way that I could derive much more pleasure than before. Even overhearing that the difference between using a GP and an EP was just a tweak failed to rattle me. See earlier blog post if you disagree.
The attendees were a great group of people. Many traveled considerable distance to take part in Minnesota’s main traditional qajaq event of the year. The collection of qajaq and qajariaq was enhanced by the efforts of Renee who had towed the Qajaq USA fleet of qajaq, as well as her own examples. Tony arranged a “parade of boats” which allowed people to experience the variety and delights of each of the represented designs. Helen, Renee, Jeff, Jeff, Michelle, Pete, Cindy, Danielle and Dave all provided opportunities for people to learn rolling, strokes, harpoon throwing, ropes, rescues etc.
The rolling training was great, with many triumphs and happy faces. I especially enjoyed working with Connie whose rolling went through a huge transformation as she learned the correct body rotation. She progressed from having 60% of a standard Greenland roll, to having a solid roll on both sides, and moved on to norsaq, hand, clenched fist and finally rock roll. She kept the rock as a trophy. I got the best hug afterwards. She, and the many others like her, keep my passion for mentoring alive.
Tony had suggested I bring the bag of twigs that is to become my new qajaq along to the Gathering to show people another aspect of the qajaq culture. It was the best possible thing that could have happened for me. It provided a large distraction from teaching and instead provided me a great opportunity to learn how to do things from the learned peanut gallery of experienced builders present. I am especially grateful to Tony, Don, Jeff and Greg for showing me how easy the building process is and not to get too worried about the details. I left the event having fully assembled the gunwales and deck beams, and I was delighted by the progress.
I have been very impressed recently by the videos showing the flexibility and grace of some of the female rollers in Scotland. They had been practicing going from a hand static brace on one side and then collapsing and coming up again on the other side. During the weekend I spent time afloat practicing this movement, and cracked it. What a great feeling, liberating, to realize that you can control the kayak to that extent without the need to rely on any paddle motion at all. Thanks especially to Lesley for inspiring me to work on this skill.
The only downside to the Gathering is it has to end, and I needed to get home to hug my wife before she set off on her next travels. I am already anticipating 2014.
More photographs from the event here