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Dealing with health issues is hard. Dealing with health issues when you are a talented athlete at the top of her game is just downright irritating and frustrating. Been there; bought the ticket; took the ride; got thrown off of that ride. To heck with the horse; I found a different animal to get back on!

Little did I know I had just begun my own Journey…

The week before my hysterectomy, I was placing gear on the sharp end of a rope on two of my favorite routes. I went for a 7 mile run the night before I started the surgery prep, sobbing the entire 7 miles. 6 weeks to the day after surgery I was on the water paddling because that’s literally all I could do. It was beyond maddening that I couldn’t even load and unload my own boat, nor could I even begin to think about any decent technique, but 26 river miles later – in one day, no less – I was too numb to think; I had finally managed to quiet my thoughts.

The repetitive motion of paddling was hypnotic; healing, if you will… I began to finally NOT feel sorry for myself, and to be grateful for the fact that, while I wasn’t climbing, I was still able to experience life in a manner in which few find themselves ever having opportunity to take advantage of.

Climbing, for me, was my drug. The ritual of checking my gear and loading my pack, and the solid weight of it on my back… The anticipation… Sounds and smells unique to each area, yet oddly similar and familiar regardless of locale… The soft clanks and clings of gear on my harness as it swayed with my movements… The feel of the rock beneath my tips and toes, on the backs of my hands, and digging into the bleeding gobis, hard won as I danced my way up a crack system… Satisfaction of a solid piece set just after pulling a dicey crux… Endorphins, sweat, fear, and excitement, all culminating in that huge, indefinable and undeniable rush as you set anchor and top out. No one can understand these particular things; no one other than a climber.

I used to define myself by such. I used to judge my worth as a person by my accomplishments on the rock, pushing constantly. Forget a factor lead fall on manky stoppers in crap rock; reality smacked me in the face and slammed me into a brick wall, leaving me with nothing but the WATER?! Seriously?!


Though I grew up on and around the water and boats of all types since before I can remember, I had always taken all of it for granted. The water has since been my saving grace. One frequently hears talk of River Time. River Time is real. It is healing. It is something that nothing can define, and it is something I never understood as a child… River Time is something for which I will forever be grateful for it gave me pause in which to begin to find my roots, leading me back to myself…

Am I the most skilled boater on the water? HA! Hardly!!! Have I found on the water what I thought I had in climbing? Without a doubt, and even more. While I accomplished goals I never knew I had in climbing, anymore my goal is sharing and protecting my love, the Water, in hopes that others may find their joy and peace there as I found mine. The water truly is life giving, but in an unobtrusive way…

Life doesn’t care where you are or what you’re doing. What matters in life is how you see yourself, and how you work to turn your perceived devastating misfortunes into positives. We are, every one of us, on our own Journey. Just as the River sculpts the landscape to suit it’s needs, our lives are molded and formed by our experiences, and by our reactions to these experiences both positive and negative. We can either fight like mad to stem the tides of change and dam the flow of life’s experiences, or we can make the choice to take a positive and productive approach and revel in the adventure… Which do you choose?

Journeys take time; they are not something one can force. It is oftentimes only at the end of a Journey that we realize their value, their joy. It is also frequently only as a Journey draws to an end that we begin to understand the cathartic nature of the path recently trodden, route recently climbed, or river recently paddled.

May you find your peace on the water, and may your own Journey be fulfilling and rewarding…

Samantha Christen