The Sickness

cas1I went to bed listening to the rain beat against the windows. The violent storm gave me a strange sense of peace, like it always does. I dreamt of paddling all night long. I awoke ready to skip work to hit the river, but there were several inches of snow and it was still snowing. I dejectedly went to work.

Walking to work I neared Cascadilla Creek, a little 500 fpm gem in the middle of Cornell. It sounded like a freight train as I approached. The sound was glorious to my ears. Entranced I found my way down the trail and before me was the most powerful display I had ever seen. Hundreds of cfs cascading off 30,40 and 50 foot waterfalls landing flat on hard rock. Even
at these levels the pools at the bottom did not fill in. I had a sinking feeling that running these falls without a landing zone would guarantee a great deal of pain. I ran back and forth like a squirrel trying to find the line. Then I realized it, I have the sickness. I threw my head back and laughed out loud. What separated me from all the mindless drones walking around above was that I wanted to live, to really live and experience everything. People without the sickness would almost certainly think that I was just trying to die, not live. I realized that it is not a sickness, but an obsession to suck the marrow out of life. I may never run Cascadilla gorge … but I do not want to get well either.

Later that day I saw my son clap his hands in a sonogram. It was one of the most moving moments of my life. It was so real. I rejoiced that my little son was happy and alive and growing in Marlo’s belly. I begged Marlo to run shuttle so I could run a little class II run up at Taughannock falls. There is a little 1/2 mile run with lots of surfing waves and holes
at higher levels. The park police came and gave me a real hard time. I think he wanted to punch me in the head. In his reality I was a crazy idiot who was out paddling in a blizzard risking his life and the lives of the people that were going to have to come and rescue me. In my reality I was just doing what I loved and being as cautious as possible. The lack of
understanding of the sport by the officer and his uncertainty and insecurity with what I was doing made him very angry. He could see that I had the sickness, to him I needed therapy.

What’s a paddler to do?

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