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April 26, 2014
About 80 pounds ago, our sons were taller than a yard, and had enough autonomy that I began to think about my body for the first time in about a dozen years.

Being a male in his 40’s, rather than think about getting in shape, I bought a canoe.

I love canoeing- the fading art of the J-stroke is virtually a Zen act. Since actually dealing with my ginormous out-of-shape-ed-ness was a bridge too far for my soon-to-be beyond middle aged brain, Zen seemed like a pretty great.

Connecting with my favorite camp activity of 1964 was also appealing, and, the idea you could have 3 in the right canoe meant all 3 Dickinson Men could go out on a lake. Parenthood, Zen and vaguely doing something with my body other than garden building and mowing the lawn seemed a win-win-win.

Being a Boomer Yuppie, I went to the “best” (Full Retail) outdoor store and got the “Best” version of a thoroughly artisanal

Buying that bit of expensive wish-fulfillment was not an act of “King-of-the-World” personal empowerment: it was a distraction without devotion. Although I planted 10 more gardens over the next decade, I used the canoe twice in those years: once with my wife, and another time with one son: but he was not in the canoe – never with the 3 me.

Knowing my logic of “buy it and I will do it” was fading, a couple of years after the Canoe Cry For Help, I bought, (from the same full retail groovey store), a kayak for my older son – he enjoyed kayaking on our one week off in Vt., (the only time I actually canoed) (of course on someone else’s vessel.

In spreading my logic to a child, I’m not unlike my parents who put me in private schools my entire life: I realized it had nothing to do with me, it was compensation for being completely clueless as parents: When in doubt, buy a defendable rationale for parenthood and resume mid-20th century foibles.

With that genetic baggage, I wanted to connect with my body,so a canoe would do that – till it didn’t. Then a kayak for a son would make him make me use the canoe and connect with my body. He never asked for the kayak, I thought it would be a “good idea. I think he used it once.

Now that he is 5 years and a dozen states away from living with us, I realized I had to deal with reality: the canoe and the kayak are being donated to the camp where I learned the art of the J-stroke 50 years ago.

But that reality really was set 12 years ago, when I bought a cheesy little recumbent exercise bike that could fit under my stairs. No connection to Zen, my youth or any thing other than acknowledging the egregious state of my bloated, completely out-of-shape body.

I am still overweight, but not morbidly so, and I do hit a real bike, and a Bow Flex and an elliptical every day, for over an hour.

You can try to impose reality on yourself – but reality is ultimately undeniable. Unless you pull the veil of willful ignorance off your eyes first, no magic collateral act will give you insight, peace or even be fun.

I do not think my parents were able to see what they were and weren’t doing with their children before they died, I am pretty sure I have shifted the ratio of wishful thinking more from expectation to realization – but I am an inch or 2 thicker than I was a few years ago…


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