In Cartagena, Columbia, we had a chance to go canoeing through a mangrove swamp, which I anticipated as being reminiscent of our canoe ride in Nepal last fall down the Narayani River. You, know—beautiful day, park-like setting, relatively safe. Only, this time I was hoping we could paddle our own canoes, because…well, just because it’s good exercise and lots of fun. I was disappointed to see men lined up to escort us, although I knew it might be a bit tricky trying to pole with a stick; I was used to sitting down with a paddle. Nevertheless, it looked like not all the canoes were attended, so I hopped in one that had no apparent captain, hoping they’d let me try my hand at the helm! Not so fast! There were strong, capable young men assigned to each craft, so I settled back to relax and enjoy the ride…sort of… Being a tropical country, and having seen some crocodiles lounging on the bank just the day before, I quickly realized that it was a great idea to let experts pole, since if I were just trying to learn, I might land our whole canoe in the water! I had visions of a crocodile or an alligator jumping out of the water to bite off somebody’s hand at any moment, and it gave me the creeps! I tried to ask the young man poling our canoe how dangerous it might be, but he just smiled and shook his head as if to say, “I don’t speak English,” so I kept my hands well inside the canoe, tried to hold very still, and hoped for no crocodiles!
What had we gotten ourselves into? I had failed to research this tour option! 😦 Have you ever been for a ride through a mangrove swamp? In a way, it’s awe-inspiring. Frogs and fish darted through the cloudy water. Iguanas hid among the branches overhanging the passageways, and termite nests, looking like discarded Darth Vader helmets, rested on trees. The air was alive with bird songs, although the songsters were hidden behind tangles of branches and flew off skittishly before I could get any good photos. The only birds large enough to be unsettled by our canoe were great blue herons and the great white herons, who fished silently along the edges of the byways. Our canoe was almost as quiet as we glided through the maze of tunnels.
The only sound was our guide dipping his pole in and out of the murky water. I suspect we were all being still to escape notice, but for whatever reason,
I had a lot of time for reflections!
Considering the possibility of a poisonous snake dropping down on us from above, a deadly reptile attacking us from the muddy waters below, or catching malaria or other insect-borne disease from the mosquitoes in the air surrounding us made the whole experience seem a little surreal. I kept remembering terrifying stories like Uncle Tom’s Cabin and thought about the horrible fears and dangers that slaves endured while running away from their masters toward freedom, back in the dark, early days of America. Can you imagine how desperate people must have been to wander through the mangrove swamps in southern Florida in an effort to find freedom? We were at least dry, sitting in a somewhat protected environment, which I found out later was an old, original dugout canoe made from mahogany! Most importantly, we were being carried along by someone who knew the way through the tangle of tunnels and had the strength and experience to get us safely “home” after our wild ride. How about you? Have you—like me—wanted to paddle your own canoe? Have you been surprised by how much more complicated and potentially dangerous life is than you ever imagined? It’s definitely been much harder for me than I remembered from earlier experiences. It’s all too easy to get into a situation where it’s not obvious which is the best way to actually get you where you feel like you need to go! Alan and I are reading a wonderful book by Joe Stowell called Following Christ. If you’re tired of paddling your own canoe, try following Christ. It’s simple, and following Christ takes the pain and frustration out of trying to find our own way to freedom and happiness. He loves us and will help. Besides, only Jesus has the wisdom and strength to get us safely home to heaven, which is where we’d all really like to end up…right?! Even if you’re not yet sure it exists?? I mean, if a heaven exists, wouldn’t you want to go there?!
“From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2).