My Watermark is the Toronto Harbour of Lake Ontario.
The first time I paddled a canoe was in the Toronto Harbour. I didn't grow up being active on the water and was intimidated by all the different boats you see on the harbour, from the big ferries to the small sailboats. But canoeing looked like so much fun.
After living in an apartment near the harbour and watching people paddling all summer long, I decided I wanted to try. We borrowed the canoe from our apartment building and carried it to the lagoon out front. Before we ever got into the water, I was already thinking canoeing was hard work. That boat was HEAVY. And there was a large collection of algae and garbage in the corner where we were getting into the boat, which I was trying to avoid.
Finally, I plopped down into the canoe (and didn't fall in). We paddled under Queens Quay and out into the lake. Our plan was to paddle to the central Harbourfront area, run to the store for some groceries for dinner, then paddle home again. We hadn't factored in how strong the winds were that day or how big the waves.
The idea of a quick paddle went out the window. All of my notions about how romantic and calming paddling would be were replaced by sheer grunt effort trying to pull the canoe forward against rocking waves that splashed across the front of the boat and winds that seemed to work against us no matter what direction we headed. The round trip took almost an hour.
It was great, but I didn't know at the time that all canoeing isn't that hard. For years, I thought people who paddled canoes had to be champion athletes. I avoided it for a long time, not wanting to embarrass myself in front of friends. Finally, someone dragged me into a canoe at Bon Echo Provincial Park, on a quiet lake in calm weather, and I saw the other side of canoeing. On a calm day, there is no greater joy than paddling. Your back gets sore, but otherwise, it's just you pulling a boat across the top of the water, heading somewhere or nowhere at all. It feels great.
Now when I see kids in the canoes in the harbour, I appreciate what they are learning. I appreciate what the harbour teaches them, how lucky we are to live in a city where you can dip your paddle into the water just minutes from your office or apartment building. I love the possibilities that opens up for us and want to protect it all the more.