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Consider the Canoe

This season my canoe was late into the water, proving again for me that when deprived of a pleasure I appreciate it more.

The canoe is a remarkable craft. As transportation or as exercise, it is fully democratic. It can be paddled, poled, sculled, rowed and sailed, but one can't, like Hiawatha, guide it by thought alone.

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The expert canoeist Albert Van Siclen Pulling defined it as "the most interesting link that unites the past and future of the outdoors. It may be the only still popular but truly aboriginal tool that we have inherited. It has beauty and grace that continue to intrigue the artist and yet it carries master and property with competent buoyancy."

The canoe is elegant in design yet durable and utilitarian. It carried much of the freight of an early civilization and provided wilderness accessibility. From a canoe, Jacques Cartier charted the rugged St. Lawrence River and its tributaries.

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Romance and adventure are part of its history. French voyageurs, their red paddles flashing, were the most romantic characters in the history of canoeing and flourished during the era of fur trading in North America.

"Canoe" is from the Haitian word, canoa, and was brought to Europe by the Spaniards and later to North America. It originally meant a boat hollowed out of a tree trunk.

The phrase "Paddle your own canoe," (i.e. mind your own business) is often attributed to President Abraham Lincoln, but it is an older saying first used by novelist Frederick Marryat in 1844, though Sarah Bolton's poem in Harper's magazine in 1854 popularized it:

Voyage upon life's sea,

To yourself be true

And whatever your lot may be,

& Paddle your own canoe.


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