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August 27, 2014

Big Blue & Non-Perfect Veganism. ~ John Merryfield

lake tahoe 2

It’s a journey, not a destination.

I keep reminding myself of this idea, every time I look at Lake Tahoe, or as some of my friends refer to it, Big Blue.

As I write this, I’m looking out at the lake and I’m reflecting about my up coming circumnavigation of Big Blue. I’m thinking, “That’s a huge lake!”

This is the sixth year I will stand up paddle the 72 miles around the lake in one day, paddling all day and all night. Every year, my mind tells me that I can’t do it; that I should take a short cut, take a nap, hide in the bushes, sleep at a friend’s house, drink a cup of tea, anything other than to paddle the entire circumference of Big Blue in one day. The previous years’ successful experiences help calm the negative mental chatter.

Every year, it’s same the deal: look at the lake, feel overwhelmed.

But a funny thing happens when I actually put the board in the water and stand on it. I feel the motion with the paddle and I relax and enjoy the moment. I see the beauty of my surroundings and I realize that it’s an adventure!

Will I make it around the lake? Who knows and who cares!?

I put the blade of the paddle into the water, pulling on the paddle, stroke after stroke, as I scrutinize my paddle technique. I notice the texture of the water. I see the shadow of my board against the bottom of the lake. I see the moon, as a cloud moves past. I hear the lake birds and water lapping the shoreline, and I am catapulted instantly into the moment, where I have energy and I feel hopeful.

Inevitably, I will again start thinking about the finish, and gently I remind myself to stay in the moment, as I chuckle at my mind’s coy ability to distract, again noticing the details of my surroundings, bringing myself back to
the moment.

And so it goes, 72 miles around Lake Tahoe.

lake tahoe

The process I go through paddling around the lake is hardly different than other peoples’ processes that I speak to, as they consider the transition to a compassionate, healthier, plant based diet and moving away from meat, dairy and eggs.

I have yet to meet one person who says that they support animal cruelty, indifferent to the intense confinement that animals experience on factory farms and the brutal conditions in slaughterhouses.

And when I explain how going vegan is a viable solution, and choosing to eat plants instead of animals is a simple and effective alternative to the inherent cruelties of the meat industry, blah blah blah, all they can see in their mind’s (glazed over) eye is Big Blue.

A large anonymous lake where they will toil, paddling in perpetuity, while eating grass clippings.

While only half of that image is accurate (if you’re like me and you drink wheat grass juice), a life caring about others, the environment, and our health, is hardly a life of deprivation. En el contrario! But you will have a hard time telling that to a certain paddler while he stands on the shore, looking at the enormity of the circumnavigation.

In other words, it’s a journey, not a destination.

Go ahead, jump in the water! Remove just one unhealthy food from your diet and replace it with a healthier plant based alternative. Try it. Experiment. Have a Meatless Monday once a week.

Living vegan is a path of kindness, not a path of perfection. You don’t have to drink my green smoothies or wheat grass juice, or paddle around Lake Tahoe in one day, but to use the words of my college Psychology professor speaking about the nature of apathy, “Do something, anything.”

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Used with Permission from Peter Spain.

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