I Heart Indies

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Optimism

My wife always says “You’re such an optimist!” It’s not a compliment. Like last Spring when she tried to talk me out of buying seed corn to plant in our yard.
She’s right; our yard doesn’t get near enough sun, but I planted it anyway, and sure enough, we got about thirty ears. They weren’t big, and some didn’t have many kernels, but I scraped off about two cans’ worth. So allowing for the time I spent planting, tending, and harvesting, and minus the original cost of the seeds, I figure I earned about .000001 cent an hour.
But my wife is right about me being an optimist. Take the time I took my daughters canoeing in the Okefenokee. We went down a back channel a friend of mine had told me about, which was so narrow you could touch either bank with your paddle. My daughters, who were ten and eight at the time, wondered if we’d get to see any alligators. They didn’t need to wonder. The Okefenokee has gators like my backyard has squirrels. You have to look hard not to see one. Anyway, the area was amazingly beautiful, and we worked our way deeper and deeper into the swamp, up an isolated and prehistoric-looking channel with this big reptiles floating like dark green logs in water as dark as tobacco spit.
I have no idea how far we would have gotten because it began to rain.
At first we just kept going, telling the girls a few drops would cool us down, then the rain started in earnest. The channel was so narrow, we couldn’t turn around but had to back-paddle all the way to the main swamp. By that time it was coming down in torrents and lightning had started. My daughters were terrified, and instantly ducked down inside the canoe, but I had to keep paddling to get us back. The water was coming down so fast, the canoe begin to fill up.
I don’t know if you’ve paddled a canoe full of water, but I know from experience the more water a canoe holds, the unsteadier it gets. So as I’m paddling with all my might, water sluicing down my body, my daughters cowering against the gunwales, and lightning crashing overhead, the canoe is threatening to capsize with every stroke.
My daughters were too scared to say anything more than, “Da-a-ddy!” and I shouted back to them the most reassuring thought I could think of at the time.
And that was the thought that kept hope alive, kept me paddling, and helped us get back to camp safely – that thought that if we did tip over, we wouldn’t have to worry about alligators because they’d have too much sense to get in the water during a lightning storm.
Which is why my wife says I’m an optimist. No matter how bad things get, I always figure they’re not as bad as they could be, and if they are as bad as they could be, if they can’t get any worse, then at least all of the alligators will be on shore.


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