Moment of Inertia

Some time at the lake, kayaking, resets my moment of inertia, as it were, and leaves me yearning for more activity.


I squirm uneasily in my chair. Breakfast is done and I am leafing not-very-interestedly through the newspaper delivered to my door at oh-dark-hundred. This is my normal routine but today something is not quite right and I don’t have a clue as to what. Finally, I look up from Olympics coverage of the previous day, Day Three. I’ve already seen all this on TV recaps last night; heard more recent updates on the radio this morning.

Do you want to go kayaking?

A pause.

If you do.

And so it is that within the hour we are unloading kayaks, lifejackets, paddles, water bottles, boat booties, bags of rescue-rope, sun block and sun hats onto the closest boat ramp on the Rideau River. The Big Guy launched, I scramble into my own cockpit using a safe but ungainly side-mount, and sort of wiggle-bump down the concrete until I reach full flotation. Thank God for indestructible poly-something-or-other. A fibreglass kayak would never stand (er…float) for this much abuse.

A few paddle strokes and I am off, flushing great blue herons and kingfishers ahead of me along the shore.  For the next 90 minutes we paddle and drift, entirely content.

I squirm uneasily in my chair. Breakfast is done and I am leafing not-very-interestedly through the newspaper. Something is not quite right. I look up from Day Four coverage of the Olympics.

Let’s go kayaking.

A short pause.


And so it is that within an hour and a bit we are once again on the Rideau. Our target: an under-construction bridge upstream. Way upstream. Further upstream than we have ever paddled. Working against a steady breeze — not a gale by any means, yet no mere zephyr — we paddle equally steadily. To stop is to be blown back downstream: there is no drifting in place today. After two hours we glide back into the launch ramp, too pooped to celebrate our achievement.

I squirm uneasily in my chair. Breakfast is long done and I am scanning not-very-interestedly through email delivered to my laptop overnight, and checking the latest breaking news. As the Big Guy sticks his head into my office — off to a golf game with buddies — I look up from online coverage of Day Five of the Olympics.  Something is not quite right.

Alone in the house, I wander downstairs to put away a suitcase in the unfinished part of the basement. And there it is: the abandoned treadmill. Never one to share its feelings, it stares at me impassively. Bearing the guilt of the exercise equivalent of too many one-night stands, I view it with a jaundiced eye. Our relationship leaves a lot to be desired. Yet there is that slight uneasiness — almost an edginess — that is pushing me to do, well, something.

And so it is that 40 minutes later I am hitting buttons to decrease speed and pitch, concluding my first exercise-for-exercise’s-sake in, well, several years, notwithstanding routine advice about the benefits of said exercise from doctors (online and others), physiotherapists, occupational therapists, family members, Weight Watchers leaders, Prevention magazine, Oprah, and pretty much every other source in the known universe. As I come back down to a comfortable walking pace, I wonder what the hell has just happened.

Days One, Two and the aforementioned Three of the Olympics had seen us at the lake cottage of friends — kayakers, as it turns out. Every morning and evening we paddled out with them, logging more sessions and more miles in three days than in the whole season to date. In the heat and wind of the day we swam, walked and swam again to cool off. By the time we came home, even our seventh-decade bodies had begun to develop great expectations worthy of Oliver Twist: Daily activity? More, please.

Moving along briskly from mixed literary allusion to high-school physics, I seem to remember that inertia is the tendency of a body in motion to stay in motion, and a body at rest to stay there too, thank you very much. A moment with Wiki confirms that memory (Great, thanks!), and offers the gratuitous information that the word comes from the Latin ‘iners‘, which means ‘idle’ or ‘lazy’ (I mean, who asked? As someone who is naturally idle, at least physically, ‘lazy’ seems harsh. ‘Idle’ can sound calm, considered, contemplative. ‘Lazy’ sounds, well, bad.)

But putting judgments aside, I can attest to the inertial powers at play, right here in this house. Between work and blogging and a habit of steady internet access, my days involve a lot of sitting. But today, on the last day of the Olympics as on all those previous days, something is not quite right. I guess the easiest thing to do — the lazy thing, if you will — is just to give in to the impulse.

I think I hear that treadmill calling my name.

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6 Responses to Moment of Inertia

  1. Susan Wright says:

    40 minutes on the treadmill? Wow! After 30 minutes flat out (and by that I mean horizontal, not on an incline) I congratulate myself and stagger off to the shower. Good on you Isabel for having the willpower, even if it manifests itself in the form of inertia, to continue to “take exercise” as the Brits say. It really is the best way to stay engaged in life as it swirls all around us. Great post as usual.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Susan – That’s what’s so funny – willpower doesn’t enter into it. That is, I’m not having to make myself do something I really don’t want to do – my body is pushing me to keep at it. I appreciate this is not a revelation for the ages (and, regrettably, it isn’t even the first time in *my* life that I’ve experienced it – the trick is to keep it going), but it is kinda cool. This is when I can really believe that people are wired differently: some need to move; some, umm, not so much. I remember a physiotherapist asking me whether I lost track of time while working on the computer. Well, duh! Of course. But for her, even the thought of sitting still for a big part of the day was kind of icky. She spent *her* whole day running back and forth between patients, demonstrating exercises and hopping up onto tables to do traction and such. I don’t suppose she ever sat down in an 8-hour shift. To me, that was amazing. To her, that was life.

  2. Alison Uhrbach says:

    For me it’s a “seasonal” thing – I become inspired to become fit in the Fall – and again in January – and with a brief Spring gardening flurry. But I agree, once you get active, you want to become MORE active, and if only the momentum could last, I’m sure I’d be much more fit than I am! Good for you – hope you can keep it up now the Olympics are over!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Alison – More and more I see life as seasonal, rather than the straight line I used to see. But that’s another blog… Re the Olympics effect, it was sure more fun to watch (some) Olympics events while striding strongly to nowhere than it is to watch TV news or reruns of shows I never followed on the first pass. Did you know that Da Vinci’s Inquest is still out there?

  3. Life is seasonal. Too right. When I returned from 3 months in Calif. to find that John was getting up at 5 AM to go out to paint in the still-cool air (back before noon), I got up, too. I felt I had 2 days for every 1 on the calendar. It was great. I was READY to sleep at 10 or before. But now that the sun rises at 6, it is getting harder. There is something untoward (and tiresome) having to turn on lights on getting up — like for those 6 AM flights to L.A. in winter — so, I guess getting up with the sun will come to an end, alas. But for now, it’s great!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – Yes, interesting how one adapts to new routines, and then unadapts (or re-adapts?). What did the Ancients say? You can’t step into the same river twice.

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