Don’t ever set out to “float” the Yakima River in Washington State with 14 people and weighed-down canoes rented from a local university. Don’t start several miles upriver where signs caution that the waters are too wild for watercrafts and human beings. I did and the group and its friendships barely survived.
Years ago, shortly before the 4th of July, my ex-husband and 12 of our friends set out for a three-day river trip. We loaded the canoes with sleeping bags, tents, backpacks, bins of food, coolers, and enough beer to keep a small city drunk for weeks. It was immediately clear we hadn’t thought out what the weight of our bodies and excessive stuff would do to the canoes, which sunk into the river, barely clearing the surface by an inch.
Late in the day, we set sail. We didn’t need the warning signs, as experience taught us we were in trouble. Five minutes on the water and oars flew out of people’s hands. Two of the four canoes tipped, tossing people and flotsam downriver. One man in a lone kayak whirled out of control in the strong eddies. A couple of women almost drowned. We tried to right ourselves and the same scene played out once again before some of the guys said we ought to pull out of the river to shore and think.
We set up camp along the river that night and spent the evening discussing our predicament over cans of Coors Light and Gardetto’s. It was clear that the women in the group were not amused, full of fear and angry at their boyfriends and spouses for putting them in harm‘s way. I found myself identifying more with the men in the group, sensing adventure and an opportunity to conquer fear.
The next morning, as we prepared to set out, I was chosen to ride solo in the kayak as all the other men needed to physically and emotionally protect their women. Day two proved just as disastrous as the evening before. We lost sunglasses, car keys, wallets, sleeping bags, clothing, and cases of beer to the river as boats tipped over and swirled us every which way downriver.
I almost drowned that day until my friend Jake swam to the edge of the river and held out an oar for me to grab onto. After hours of canoes tipping, losing more belongings, and several more near-drownings we pulled off the river again to set up camp for the night. You never saw a more solemn bunch. Sunburned, mosquito-bitten folks. We had scrapes all over our faces and shoulders from getting caught along the sides of the river where the current pulled us and our canoes toward sharp, dry tree branches lining the bank. We couldn’t have a fire because we selected a spot in tall, dry grass. We glumly realized most of us would be sleeping out in the open as we’d lost our sleeping bags in the constant boat tippings.
My friend Tom asked a couple of us to go for a walk with him. He said, “I know people are angry and scared. But I think this is awesome. This is Camp Awesome. This is a great adventure.”
Meghan Hill’s expertise as a professional organizer, lifetime of writing, and years of studying self-development culminated in Making Room for You, her first book. Organizing for over 100 clients in Los Angeles, often overhauling entire homes and commercial offices and acting as a personal coach, has given her invaluable insight into the process of organizing and allowed her to gain a deeper understanding of what people need to sustain an orderly and serene environment. Her countless day jobs and exploration of what it means to be human is endless fodder for her imagination and writing. Born in Seattle, Meghan now lives in Walla Walla, Washington. She is currently mining her 87 journals for a series of books to publish.