Editorial: The New Best Thing to Do | Canoeroots Magazine | Rapid Media
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Editorial: The New Best Thing to Do Photo: Scott MacGregor

Trying new experiences and going back to old ones

With so much focus these days on experiential learning, I sometimes feel to be a good parent I have to bombard my children with new experiences. Each new place and new activity adds to their memory banks, building their toolkits of knowledge so that the next new tidbit can be processed and filed in the appropriate neurological pigeon hole somewhere in the jam jars between their ears.

And so each spring, on Sunday mornings after we finish our pancakes, I pull out pen and paper to create a list of adventures we’ll have during that summer.

I have wild ideas. I propose rafting 21 days down the Grand Canyon. Flying in by de Havilland Beaver to Lady Evelyn Lake and seeing the ancient pines of Temagami. The five-month-long Kallin family hiking adventure is the type of thing I have in mind. Though hiking 2,185 miles of the Appalachian Trail through 14 states doesn’t fit between summer camp and the trade shows I attend for this magazine, it’s the type of grand adventure that I dream about when stuck in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport at Terminal F, awaiting a delayed and overbooked 737.

More often than not, our kids write down places we’ve already been. They want to go back and do the things we’ve already done. I’m disappointed, so I bait them with my rich uncle game.

“If our rich uncle came to town and said we could paddle any river in the world, which would it be?” I ask. Again, they pick the Madawaska River, a 20-minute logging road shuttle from our home.

If you flip through our family albums (who am I kidding, I mean click through our family albums), at a glance our first 10 years of memories look very much the same. It looks like we do the same activities in the same places, year after year. 

Throughout university a climbing friend of mine had a poster on his wall of an old Indian and a proverb written below that read, “It is better to know one mountain than to climb many.”

The river the kids write on the list I have already paddled hundreds of times. I can close my eyes and picture every rock, every eddy and every wave I’d use to ferry a fully loaded canoe. This river is the reason we live where we do. I can see it right now sitting at my desk through the sliding glass doors of Canoeroots’ office. I tell my friends I know the Madawaska like the back of my hand.

I asked the kids why they like going down the same river over and over again. They said, “It’s not the same river.”

Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote, “No man ever steps in the same river twice.” He argued that change is constant, that everything in the world is always changing. Even a river that seems constant is always undergoing change. And so are our children. They are not the same as they were a year ago, a week ago, a day ago.

Looking more closely at our family photos, I see how Doug and Kate are bigger and stronger. They are paddling more and they are carrying more. They are now swimming further from shore and jumping from taller rocks.

Children are like the river that seems to stay constant yet is continually changing ever so slightly right before my eyes. They have been changed by their experiences and by every trip down this river.

And so, on the list on the refrigerator is written a new river: the Madawaska River. It is better to know one river than to paddle many.

Scott MacGregor is the founder and publisher of Canoeroots. On his fridge there are now two lists: one for new adventures and another for family traditions. 

This article was originally published in Canoeroots, Volume 15 • Issue 2. Read this issue.  

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