I sat in a deserted seaside parking lot. My wife was taking part in a reunion and I was left to my own devices. I was in to my second year with CFS, my fatigue level was average to high – at least three out of a maximum five – and I wondered what I had the strength to do?
I eased myself out of the car, slowly crossed the road and was transfixed by this ‘jewel!’ A large lake or ‘mere’ – as they say in those parts – nearly a mile long, tree-fringed with an island in the centre. The unbroken mirrored surface shimmered in the early autumn sunshine, inviting, everywhere quiet, not a soul about. Tidily moored up to a deserted jetty, old traditional clinker-built rowing boats, just waiting to be taken out.
I have a love of boats and water, ever since my father taught me to row on our local river as a boy, so my heart longed to be out there. But my head doubted whether rowing was the right action for a fatigued body. I paced back and forth debating and my heart won. A surly young man untied my selected craft and I cast off.
Gently, ever so gently, so as to make the least claim on my limited energy, I dipped the oars in now and again to gain momentum as we slid away from land. Resisting the temptation to pull with force, I continued at an almost effortless pace, feathering my oars on the return stroke like a professional.
After a few minutes I shipped the oars and listened. I, man and boy, enthralled with the experience! You could almost hear the silence, which was only broken by a flock of coots. Reluctantly I made to return, but took my time, determined to squeeze every ounce of enjoyment out of the half-hour hire.
It’s hard to explain to someone with normal energy what that experience meant to me. But I stepped out of the boat as if I was Captain Horatio Hornblower or Captain ‘lucky’ Jack Aubrey himself – of “Captain and Commander” fame – to the applause of the gathered crowds. It was a brilliant victory! “I’m proud of you son!”
Back in the car I was full of gratitude towards God, for arranging and enabling. Yes, I did suffer a minor relapse for a two or three weeks afterwards. Not sure whether it was the rowing or something else, but it didn’t matter. No one can take that achievement and memory away from me.