Carrying in the Boundary Waters


Along with the lake miles we paddled in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area last week, my fellow wilderness wanderers and I also had about ten portages. All together our portages totaled several miles of carrying our gear and canoes over rugged terrain to bypass the shallow rapids that connected one lake to the next. What I found beautiful about our carries was the collaboration that compelled us. We got the job done on every one, but never in a rush, never singularly, and never by moving our outfit from lake to lake in a way that compromised our capacity. By sharing the load, and when necessary taking multiple trips, we managed to sustain our energy so that we could finish our route and still keep our eyes open long enough at the end of the day to watch the moon rise over the water.

Earlier this year, in late winter, I scribbled a note in my journal, “Today I start my day recalling that earth weighs what earth weighs and that I do too. Today I’m going to carry my weight, not the weight of the world.” 

The most profound insights are like a good piece of outdoor gear. They are well worn, heavily used and sturdy. This is one such insight: There is a great measure of strength to be found in the embrace of our limitations.

To those of you compelled by the work of bettering the world, I hope you find the strength from day to day to carry your weight, and what’s more I hope that you remember with each step that the entirety of the load is not yours to bear. Let’s get the job done. And then let’s spend some time at the end of each day reflecting on how we can sustain our strength to do our work again tomorrow.