An old cliché of one stroke at a time is a simple statement about living in the moment. So what is it to be engaged fully in that one stroke?
After the fact it is difficult to isolate the experience of one stroke from the others. It is challenging to gain clarity on exactly one stroke because it happens in a flow of many more. The ability to allow the memories of many other strokes to be rolled up into the idea of one stroke makes it hard to see where one stroke starts and others end. Even to reflect on the best one stroke brings about a flurry of past memories of so many strokes that it ends up being a mix of many of the best strokes not one. This also can be impacted by our ability to imagine the best one which so easily leads us to over lay that creation on top of the one stroke. As you see here the dilemma is not just identifying the one, but ensuring it is pure and uncontaminated by the past one’s and future one’s.
Many years ago I remember watching a surf video and a legendary surf by the name, Midget Farrally (spelling) was being asked a question about his memories of when he won the surfing title at Manly beach, Sydney. His response surprised me. He said that he had surfed the beach for so many years that it was hard to recall the feelings and emotion of the occasion. The repetitive-ness of each surfing experience sounded like it had diluted his memory and in part his appreciation for the experience. This I think is similar to any rower who has rowed many strokes in their life. The joy of performing the one stroke and immersing in it is challenged by the accumulated nature of the cyclic or repeated experiences.
So then I will cut through the thick and unclear aspects of what it is to be fully engaged in one stroke. Knife-edge comes to mind. Last week while rowing on the Gold Coast even though I feel pretty comfortable most of the time, there are times when I don’t. It is like a see saw action. As I write this I am working to recall, so bare with me here. There were some strokes that we really matched up together and the felt easy, flowing and repeatable, but alas the sense of being on a knife-edge is a great description. Less so from the perspective of balance or even match up, it has an essence that finds a cord within that is about effort, ease, maintenance and fatigue. In fact to see it clearer I notice that the one, perfect one that I see is one of edgy contrast. It is in a position of precarious, pointedness with a subtle oscillation between more than one element and more then one stroke including the past, present and future. The elements involve self, team-mates, equipment, water, movement, harmony, mismatch, load, flow, hardness, relaxation, sequences, positions, focuses, emphasis, location, energy, strain, surge, comparison, connection, separation, isolation, effort, ease, understanding, knowledge, risk, exposure, confidence, doubt, poise, purpose, clarity, mistakes, errors, forgiveness, acceptance, love, joy, fear, ambiguity, tension, dynamics, leverage, struggle, difference, compliments, coaching, thoughts, distractions, intentions, actions, results, exchange, change, habits, confusion, satisfaction, uncertainty and well I could continue but for the life of me I felt like it was time to stop.
One stroke is so hard to describe, I know it when I feel it and some times I know it when I see it. Maybe the one is not perfect but we make it so because we like the idea of it being better than it really was. The experience of rowing fascinates me because it has so many things it relates too. What I do know is that when I am engaged things change. The world looks and feels different and it gives me hope. Giving in to it, but not letting it get the better of you is critical. That may sound strange but there is something about being part of the boat, the movement, the other person, and the surroundings that makes so much sense of everything. I don’t know what I am trying to explain, but as I sit here and type this I get the same wonderful sense of connection when I allow myself to drop back into the experience. Actually as I sit here and type I get the strange feeling it is similar. I guess that is why I like to write.
Accessing the moment is not just about rowing, but I find it palatable to articular the action of rowing in a way that means something. One stroke at a time is a cliché and like one shot at a time it has meaning if you connect with it in some way. Even one day at a time holds meaning to our current situation as I have had some ups and downs of late, but not because it is not so, but rather through this expression my family, friends and others are for the first time seeing more clearly what this type of journey means and what is involved.
One stroke then is like every other stroke and they in turn they are like the days of life we live. It is just an experience how I choose to judge it or them is my choice. Years ago I watch a video the Searle Brothers made about their 1992 Olympic Games success in the coxed pair. In the video Greg spoke of a simple activity they did which involved calling out better or worse as a measure for each stroke they rowed. The idea I guess was to have more, better strokes and as such you develop accountability and improvement.
One stroke means different things and the reasons are varied. What enables full engagement in one stroke or in the moment is also varied. They say less is more, but here I think I have reversed that concept to challenge thinking that maybe more is less. One stroke unfolds and expands. Its meaning is huge and the vastness of experience is inspiring. Being at one in one is the art to rowing I suppose which really isn’t anything new, but repeated. So you see, like me, a cliché can mean so much which it does.
For now I will sign off by saying, love that one, for it is fun and maybe even more…