Last week, when we were in South Carolina, we spent a day kayaking on the Black River with Black River Tours exploring the Black River Nature Preserve. I suppose we could have kayaked through the cypress / tupelo swamp on our own — we all know how to maneuver a kayak and could have followed directions about where to go — but we chose to go with a guide. Straight away, Mandy, our Black River Outdoors Guide, showed us things that I, at least, would never have noticed.
I’m pretty comfortable around water and in a paddle-driven vehicle, but even so, I was immediately distracted by the whole experience. Before we even got into our boats, I peered warily at the dark, tea-colored water wondering if it was safe to touch. While I was thinking about how to look more rugged and outdoorsy than I was feeling, she was explaining that the black water actually wasn’t dirty, but filled with anti-bacterial tannins from the cypress trees (these natural preservatives in the water enticed the pirate, Black Beard, to take barrels of it for his ocean escapades). While I was busy getting my life jacket comfortable, Mandy told us to look for snakes hanging out in overhead branches (and that they could end up dropping into our kayaks if we paddled under them). With my full attention on the possibly-snake-infested-branches (and paddling precisely in the middle of the channel), I would have missed the Great Egret fishing on the shore and the pair of osprey building their nest if not for Mandy pointing them out. As soon as I started watching the sky for more birdlife, Mandy showed us the swamp azaleas blooming on the shore. While I was looking for flowers, there is no doubt that I would have missed the long, floating log – that was actually an alligator.
Turtles sunning (and perfectly camouflaged) on logs, lazy red wasps making a nest, lacy green lichens decorating the trees, all would have gone unnoticed. Had we gone without a guide, we would have had a lovely time, I’m sure. We would have enjoyed a beautiful, peaceful day on the water (unless one of those snakes had joined me in my kayak) and I would have missed so much right around me.
When I started taking Nia classes, one thing I loved was that instead of acting as a drill sergeant and telling us what to do, my Nia teachers acted as tour guides. They helped me with my technique and pointed me in the right direction, but largely, they pointed out interesting things along the way. Interesting things that I most certainly would have missed while I was distracted by my life jacket and the possibility of snakes. So today, let’s focus on taking the time to see what might otherwise have been missed.