Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Holding the Rope until I Hear the Horn

DURING THE LAST 24 HOURS: I've spent twelve hours in the car (roughly half sleeping through the night and half driving home), approximately 45 minutes attending to medical needs of some stranded motorists after a deer-car accident just south of Des Moines Iowa at 3 AM, two hours in meetings, two hours catching up on work/phone calls/housework, and two hours getting ready for the next trip, 15 minutes are completely lost somewhere and four hours I spent on a canoe trip with some very amazing people.

On one of the most beautiful sunny springs days I can remember, dozens of community leaders were randomly assigned to boats and participated in my clearly-favorite networking event of all time.  As we canoed down the Mississippi River through Minneapolis, I'd be hard pressed to dream up a more wonderful business meeting.

Among the crowd were some noteworthy adventurers were among the  Will Steger North Pole team which included Ann Bancroft, Paul Schurke, Brent Boddy, Richard Weber and Geoff Carroll who have returned to Minnesota to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their historic trip to the North Pole.  They are in town for a reunion and to highlight the great work of the Will Steger Foundation.  (In preparation for their arctic expedition, this team trained in northern Minnesota for several months: what does that tell you about Minnesota?!)

Ann Bancroft is the first known woman in history to cross the ice to the North and South Poles. In 1986, Ann dogsledded 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from the Northwest Territories in Canada to the North Pole as the only female member of the Steger International Polar Expedition. In 1993, she led the American Women’s Expedition to the South Pole, a 67-day expedition of 660 miles (1,060 km) on skis by four women. Most recently, in February 2001, Ann and Liv Arnesen from Norway became the first team of women to ski across Antarctica’s landmass.
Today as we navigated the current, we passed through the Mississippi River lock-and-dam system; Upon entering the lock area, someone was to ring the bell for service to alert the staff and then we'd paddle the boat into the lock. Once inside, I found myself in the best position to hold onto the long thick rope that is affixed to the wall; it is there to help stabilize the boat as the water drops 50 or more feet per lock.  My hands and arms are sore and tired tonight from holding our canoe and the three-canoe flotilla connected to the wall during the drop.  But what fun!

We watched the huge metal doors open like a scene from the Wizard of Oz when the huge green doors opened for Dorothy and her friends.   Soon our boat was beckoned to rejoin the current and we hit the whitewater.  The Mississippi River is still especially high from spring flooding but deemed safe enough to allow our group of adults the opportunity to be the inaugural expedition of the 2011 spring canoe season. 

Four Good Reminders from this expedition:
1) Hold the rope until you hear the horn which indicates it's safe to proceed.  The people in the boat simply lack the perspective to make such an important decision on timing. Rely on the voice from up above!
2) Even though I have good upper body strength and experience in a canoe, I simply don't have any expertise on this particular stretch of river. Especially when the water is high, rely on the voice of experts who have gone that way before. 
3) Don't be cocky or too self-reliant. Even this amazing team of explorers chose to wear personal flotation devices, put cameras in plastic bags just in case they tipped and followed the guide's instructions.  They demonstrated a humble spirit and remained gracious -- even though I'm sure they could give classes to most everyone on the trip
4) Don't be so eager to talk that you don't allow others to share a story that might be the most amazing thing you've heard all month.  There were some people that clearly had their own agenda and wanted to talk about their newest project or idea.  Not everyone knew who the North Pole expedition team members were because they were divided up into separate boats.  Maybe we will be with someone amazing and will never know it unless we shut our mouths to let others share.

James 1:19  "My dear brothers, take note of this:
Everyone should be slow to speak and quick to listen..."

Born in 1955 in Mendota Heights, Minnesota (BDOTE!) Ann's love of the outdoors began early in life. Aside from the two years she spent with her family in Kenya, East Africa (in fifth and sixth grades), Ann was a student of Minnesota’s vast wilderness. Her father often took her on camping and canoe trips in northern Minnesota. At age eight, she began to lead her own mini-expeditions, cajoling her cousins into accompanying her on backyard winter camping trips.

Ann’s passion for polar adventures is matched by her enthusiasm for teaching children. After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education from the University of Oregon, Ann taught physical and special education in Minneapolis schools and coached softball, basketball, track and field, volleyball and tennis. She also was an instructor for Wilderness Inquiry, an organization that helps disabled and able-bodied individuals enjoy the wilderness year round.
Ann’s other achievements include founding and leading the Ann Bancroft Foundation, a non-profit organization that celebrates the existing and potential achievements of women and girls. She has been featured in the book Remarkable Women of the Twentieth Century (1998); inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame (1995); named Ms. magazine’s “Woman of the Year” (1987); and honored with numerous awards for her accomplishments. Most recently she appeared in “Ennis’ Gift, a film about learning differences,” a documentary produced by the Ennis Cosby Foundation featuring celebrities who have dealt with learning disabilities, such as James Earl Jones, Henry Winkler, Danny Glover and Bruce Jenner.

A nationally and internationally known entity, Ann has been featured in Time, People, USA Today, Ms., McCall’s, Vogue, Good Housekeeping, Glamour, National Geographic, Outside, Sports Illustrated for Kids and on BBC, CNN and National Public Radio. She is currently serving on the National Women’s Hall of Fame board of directors and has been a spokesperson for the M.S. Society, United Way, United Cerebral Palsy and the Learning Disabilities Association.