I grew up in Maine along the Penobscot River. This body of water separated my hometown, Brewer, from the nearby town of Bangor. Growing up I did not interact with the river much, I mainly viewed it as a boundary. I would stare aimlessly at its tannic brown water from the passenger seat of my mother’s blue station wagon as we travelled to swim practice. I never wondered where it came from or where it was going.
It wasn’t until after high school that I found my place on this waterway. I remember crying, sitting in my loaded up hatchback in my parent’s driveway. I remember being worried I wouldn’t fit in, or wouldn’t be good enough. I was headed to raft guide training up north. This would be my first adventure all on my own. My parents rubbed my shoulder and assured me that I would do great. I caught my breath, wiped my eyes, and turned the key in the ignition.
Before I knew it I was getting ready for my first day of training. It was springtime and the water was still ice cold – I pulled on layers of neoprene. I took my place in the raft and the trainer called out “all ahead!” It was in that moment that I found my place, my people, and my voice.
That summer I was certified as a guide on the Kennebec, Dead, and Penobscot rivers. I loved all of those rivers, but one stood out above the rest. The Penobscot. In the six summers that I spent guiding I developed a deep, almost spiritual, connection to this place. The very same river that I had ignored for most of my life now had me enchanted. From its deep granite gorges to it’s thrilling rapids, I loved every part of it and loved sharing it with others.
By going to the source I found my connection. On this river I not only found my place, but I also found my purpose. I will always be grateful for that place, and will always call that river home.