I had something unexpected happen last week—an email from a reader of this blog. Some bloggers hear from readers all the time. Not me. So I was really surprised when this man reached out.
Once I determined he was for real, we had a conversation by phone and talked about, you guessed it, rowing. I asked him how he first got into the sport and what he told me made me smile.
He said that he works as a contractor and was once asked to bid on some work for the Princeton boathouse. Imagine walking into one of those storied institutions—the oars lined up like soldiers, the crew boats resting on the racks like a flotilla awaiting gladiators, tarnished trophies telling of victories past. Brian said it was amazing and then he walked into the locker room.
"Oh my god, the stench!" he said. "I couldn't imagine why anyone would get up before dawn, in freezing, cold weather, and subject themselves to that."
Then he laughed and said that, years later, when he finally got into a rowing shell, he understood. "I was hooked," he said, adding that he was also instantly humbled.
That's what rowing does. It tests and teases us, making us feel as light and graceful as dragonflies one moment and then hurling us into moments of sheer panic where we wobble and weave like drunken fools before (hopefully) catching our balance and resuming that liquid dance.
Tomorrow I head out on the pre-dawn waters once again. It's been a while. I won't bore you with details but let's just say life got in the way. I'm ready and this time when and if life gets in the way, I'll push back and whisper, "Move over, life. I need some balance. I need rowing."