Two weeks after I returned home from my expedition, I had jury duty. I learned that when radiologists (and other medical professionals) talk about an intake of breath, they call it an “inspiration.”
I love that!
I love that we can’t live without inspiration. I love that something we do every single day is an inspiration.
I’ve enjoyed being able to share a little bit with you about kayaking the length of the Pacific Coast of this country – from the northwest tip of Washington where I could see Canada, to San Diego Bay, where before rounding Point Loma to go into the bay I could see the Coronado Islands in Mexico.
It was breathtaking. Literally. Every day I held my breath as a whale languidly passed directly in front of my boat or a bevy of migrating birds stretching from horizon to horizon passed so close I could hear the air through their wing feathers. I involuntarily sucked in my breath when a wave collapsed on itself or broke over and around a rock. I laughed out loud when I went by Common Murre or Sea Lion rookeries with their grumbling and belching and chortling. There was the air expelled in sudden surprised tears several times, and (embarrassingly) great big loud ugly sobs when I made contact with the person who was picking me up on that day, when I was utterly exhausted and hadn’t been able to get ahold of him and thought I was going to land in a busy harbor with no place to go. There were the moments of sudden wonder that forced air out of my lungs in surprise- the moment I rounded Point Bonita and the Golden Gate Bridge came into view, the time a pod of dolphins swam out to me and split the pod on both sides of my boat, leaping into the air within just a few feet of my boat, and sank into the water, leaving my surprised breath as the only sound in the silence that filled in behind them.
That word marked the start of the last day of my expedition. I was greeted with a video compiled from videos made by friends across the country and the world, congratulating me on completing this trip. I was given a bouquet of flowers and instructions to decorate my boat with them to remind me of all the colorful friends supporting me in this journey. I was given a white rose with those flowers in honor of Gio, a young man who went to Mexico with Chicago Adventure Therapy (CAT), the non-profit I founded and direct, and was shot and killed in Chicago 6 months later, one week before his 19th birthday. The rose was to lay on the water sometime this day, in honor and memory of Gio, and of the young people still alive, in part because of CAT. I was given a necklace. It was a silver lotus flower – a flower that grows into the sun from roots deep in muck and mud. The lotus flower was holding a piece of sea glass that had, like me, been tossed and pummeled by the sea, stripped raw and worn to the nub, to that essence where all that is left is breath and wonder.
I was greeted that morning by one last thing. A bag of flower buds. A note with them told me they “symbolize all the young people CAT has yet to inspire.” The note reminded me that “you can’t save them; you can only inspire them, as they inspire you.”
I cannot tell you that there is anyone who inspires me as much as the young people who are part of CAT. Young people who are gang-involved, non-binary, homeless, refugees, or have mental health issues or live under the poverty line, these young people have more grit and grace and courage than any other group of people I know. It is the honor of my life to get to paddle and climb and camp with these young people. I’ve cried (and sobbed) with relief, with joy, with worry, with frustration, in grief. I’ve laughed, over and over again. I’ve held my breath, expelled it involuntarily in sudden surprise. There have been moments of wonder as I watch the grace, the courage, the generosity of these young people who’ve been handed a raw deal in their lives.
I learned in October that an “inspiration” is an intake of breath. I wonder – what takes your breath away?
* * * * *
If you are inspired by CAT young people…
If you are inspired by a 1508 mile paddling trip…
If there is someone in your life who inspires you…
~ I hope you will take a moment to make a contribution to CAT.
Chicago Adventure Therapy is not closing our doors, or cancelling our summer season, because of the coronavirus epidemic. While Chicago is still under a Stay at Home Order, we are ramping up efforts to maintain connection with young people and provide referrals to concrete resources like rental assistance or food pantries that they or their families need right now. As the state re-opens, we will run modified outdoor programming where and when we believe it’s safe. Until then we’re working on engaging and relevant online materials, resources and activities to provide for young people, their families, and their communities. Your contribution will help us connect with our youth and provide respite, recreation, and relief to the fullest extent we’re able.