I have had a slight obsession with water lately. I’m sure it’s because the ocean has been my weekly field trip this summer, and as I type there is a tropical storm on its way up the east coast. I look up as I walk the streets of New York City and play “I Spy” with the water towers on top of every building. It gives me a sense of safety that every high rise building is required to have a tank of water in reserve. I sit and stare at fountains and am amazed how they continually collapse back on themselves. They create a temporary water show for our enjoyment and then the drops of water are calmed, falling back in line, waiting their turn to fly into the air again.
I look for reflections in water puddles after it rains, they are like ‘thank you’ mirrors to the sky for cleaning our streets. I always love the rain in NYC because it polishes us up a bit, washing away the grime and negative vibes that can easily build up in an overcrowded city. Continuing my awareness of water, I feel like I cry a lot these days. Not sad tears, just tears of whelm. Overwhelm. Underwhelm. Tears of change, tears of fears…Tears are cleansing too, washing away the emotional buildup, cleaning out the pipes of my heart, mind, and soul preparing me for a new set of experiences to process.
Have you seen the video of the spoken word artist Prince Ea dissecting the children’s song Row Row Row Your Boat? He claims it is one of the deepest songs in the history of music. I can’t disagree with him. I love that a little tune from 1852 has found such relevance in 2016. Here's his take on it:
“Row, row, row your boat. What is the boat? This body, this life form. The song says row YOUR boat, take control of your life. You are the captain of your ship. Stop worrying about somebody else’s boat. Don’t take away their paddles and try to row for them. You can give them direction, show them technique, but they have to row their own boat and you have to row yours.
Gently down the stream. Gently! Not forcefully, not fighting against the current, but going with the flow…the flow of life, because when you argue with reality, you lose.
Merrily, merrily, merrily. Not struggling, struggling, struggling. Not seriously, seriously, seriously. The number one cause of death is stress. And what is stress? How you’re interpreting what’s happening to you. Scientists have proven that in your brain there is no difference between anxiety and excitement. The only difference is how we interpret what’s happening. Be happy. 75% of job and school success is predicted by optimism levels. Not only are optimists physically healthier but they recover more quickly from illness and live longer.
Life is but a dream. Are we dreaming right now? As we go to sleep tonight does this world of our strong ideas, passions, and loved ones not effortlessly disappear, replaced with others? All the ancient sages and gurus said the same thing: This is a dream, a passing dream. And it is your duty to wake up to the truth that you are powerful and you choose how you see life every morning when you wake up.”
I was given a huge opportunity to row my own boat last week. Literally. I paddled 34 miles circumnavigating the island of Manhattan in a kayak with the Long Island City Boathouse. At night! It truly WAS a dream. Many of my friends are marathon (and even ultra marathon) runners. I have friends that think nothing of hopping on their bikes and eating 50 miles of pavement. I am not one of those people. Yes, I move my body every day. I walk an average of 3-5 miles a day just being a New Yorker. I am in a dance class or yoga class about 5 of 7 days a week. I am healthy and fit and have plenty of energy. Keeping myself afloat in New York City waterways from 7pm - 5:30am with one long stick?! What was I thinking?
The mouths of the East River and Hudson River flow directly into the Atlantic Ocean, forming an estuary with strong tides that make navigating parts of the New York Harbor difficult as well as dangerous. This was not going to be some sweet little float trip. We were going to have to work hard for every majestic bridge we’d go under, and every stretch of skyline we’d witness. Those were huge rewards that came at a price.
The Hudson River runs north for 6 hours and then flows south for 6 hours. The Mohican tribe who formerly inhabited both banks of the lower portion of the river named it “The River That Flows Two Ways.” As we found ourselves paddling with and against these currents throughout our adventure, not once was it easy. Not once were we able to stop paddling and really float and relax. It was imperative that we remain alert and mindful of our surroundings. It was continuous, arduous, exhilarating and above all one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. It was a really meditative trip, not a lot of chatting as it was the middle of the night and incredibly dark outside. We all kind of kept to ourselves. I got to be alone with my thoughts and dreams and I felt like I had a semi-private audience with the stars and crescent moon. I thought a lot about how my life flows. It also flows two ways. I must be mindful of the tides. I must keep paddling through the whelm. I mustn’t lose my ground when the wake of another boat tries to veer me off course.
There is one section that is called the treadmill. It’s right off a tiny deserted island called Mill Rock where the East River and the Harlem Rivers converge. This ‘treadmill’ was infamous as a treacherous area for shipping vessels to pass and became known as Hell Gate. It was the only time of the entire trip I was faced with the idea of ‘neverness.’ We are never going to get past this, I caught myself thinking. The current was bubbling and swirls of water darted every which way. My kayaking partner, Sarah, and I were at the back of the pack and knew we had to make it around Mill Rock to stay with the group. We didn’t have a choice and no one was going to come and save us. We paddled and paddled only to find ourselves going backward. It was exhausting gathering up the energy to take on another patch of water with the hopes of advancing forward. All in all, the treadmill lasted maybe 8-10 minutes. Those minutes are going to stay with me for a really long time. The feeling of neverness, as well as the feeling of accomplishment after clearing the very angry water.
Before I went on the overnight circumnavigation trip a friend texted me a wish. ”Be strong. You are going to be transformed.” I held those words with me with every stroke I paddled. I rowed my boat, I was gentle with the water and it was gentle with me. I was merry. I didn’t complain. I didn't give up on myself when I thought I wouldn’t make it. I walked home from the boathouse as the sun was coming up, said goodbye to Sarah, and I went upstairs to warm up and soak in a hot Epsom salts bath. I did it! My arms and hands could barely move, but I felt new. I felt strong and transformed. I felt like I was wide awake and living a dream. Here’s to the fall, my friends, and taking these lessons out of the water and living them in my daily life! And here’s to all of you, whether overwhelmed or underwhelmed, keep rowing!
This recipe is one I created for Stoneridge Orchards using their dried fruit. The marbled swirls of chocolate remind me of the swirls in the water on the river near Mill Rock and the treadmill. This is such an easy treat to make but looks and tastes incredibly special. The higher the quality chocolate you use, the higher the quality the overall dish will have. It’s worth it to spend the extra few dollars. You’re worth it.
Dried Fruit Chocolate Bark
- 8.8 oz of high-quality dark chocolate
- 4.4 oz of high-quality milk chocolate
- 4.4 oz of high-quality white chocolate
- 2 tablespoons chopped Stoneridge Orchards dried strawberries
- 2 tablespoons chopped Stoneridge Orchards dried blueberries
- 1 tablespoon cacao nibs
- Prepare a cookie sheet (with sides) lining it with parchment paper. Using double boilers or bowls placed over pans of boiling water, melt all three chocolates separately and at the same time if possible. The chocolates should be smooth with no lumps. The base chocolate goes down first. (I used dark.)
- Once melted, pour onto cookie sheet. Follow with the remaining two chocolates, drizzling and spacing out pools of the white and milk chocolates.
- Dragging a skewer or chopstick through the chocolates, begin to marble them together. Swirling and dragging until you are happy with the design. (Use restraint, it’s easy to go crazy and then it gets too busy.) Sprinkle the top with dried strawberries, dried blueberries, and cacao nibs. (Or coconut chips, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, or dried cherries…)
- Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to harden. When you are ready to serve, the bark will lift off the parchment paper and can be broken into shards. Whatever isn’t eaten can be stored in the refrigerator.
Images of food by Cheryl Stockton of Stockshot Studio