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Overboard

Avid outdoorsman, Robert Lane, on his Birthquake experience - examining and struggling with the spiritual, creative and passive side of me.

A terrible feeling enveloped me as I realized the canoe was going over and I was going into that cold, dark water. I remember a golden color up at the surface as I sank beneath it. It was cold, so cold that I went into shock. From somewhere came the where-with-all to grab the bright red life jacket that waited two feet above my head. There was silence on the top. All of my gear was drifting away from me in a circle of paddles, back pack and rod cases. It felt like I was being abandoned. My head ached from the cold and I felt very heavy.

The bottom of the canoe and the submerged engine looked ominous. It was the thing that had put me into the water and the gloomy situation that I was now in. I reached for it and it rolled away from like a porpoise that was trying to escape danger. The life jacket slipped down to my wrist and I sunk beneath the surface again. There was no golden glow this time when I looked up from beneath the water. It took several, strong, almost futile kicks to get back up onto the life jacket. I was heavy now. Very heavy. I thought of a tired, old bull moose trying to get his legs under him for the last time in the middle of a bog.

The canoe was very touchy and wouldn't stay upright or let me get back in her. I felt like I had done something bad and that I shouldn't have been out there in the first place. My mind was slowing down and my heart was racing. Anxiety and sweeping depression circled inside of me like gray storm clouds. Deep in the recesses of my consciousness I was in a dark foreboding arena. The knowledge that I would soon die seeped up from my subconcience.

I thought of my father at home in Millinocket this Mother's day Eve. He'd be sitting in his easy chair watching television before taking my mother to church. Then he'd probably taking a ride up into the country surrounding Mt. Katahdin after he dropped her off. It was something that he and I shared together each time I went north to visit my family.


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I had called my mother that morning to wish her a happy Mother's Day and to tell that I was going fishing for the weekend up in the big mountain country of Western Maine. Neither of them would have a clue of my demise for several days. My father would take it hard. I felt bad about that as I climbed onto the overturned canoe and tried to keep it steady so I could rest while the rain fell and the fog closed in.

I though about my family and friends as I pondered taking my boots and pants off for an attempt at the one-half mile swim to shore, where a camp with smoke billowing from the chimney stood among a stand of fir trees.

For the past eighteen months, I had been thinking about what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I had been examining and struggling with the spiritual, creative and passive side of me. I had all of these ideas in my head for my book, a hundred short stories and six or seven up-tempo blues songs but was doing nothing with them. If only I had it to do over again was my recurring thought. Counter to this self-absorbing rationalization was my own conscious awareness that each day that I got up and stood vertical was a new beginning. I had no excuses to shy away from a "Birthquake" that was continually making sizable movements in my heart and psyche after a "top of the Richter scale" burst six years ago. Surrounding the fragmented chunks of what I once was professionally and personally, was an ever intruding and clearer sense of who I really was diametrically opposed to the slick, cocky, shining star bureaucrat that I had molded myself into for a "spirit of the times" identity. Creativity, spiritualism, and a strong belief in the power and process of the subconscience along with a belief in a creative deity make for strange bedfellows within a soul gilded in the realm of a bored, been there done it bureaucrat. As with two subterranean continental plates, the result is an emotional and psychological upheaval of volcanic proportions. Here I was in the middle of these forces, unhappy with the false Identity that I had molded for myself in order to compensate for the pain stemming the loss my true self during my adolescent years. On the surface, it was a case of the "shoulds". I should do this because this is what I had been taught and had subscribed to as well having falsely embraced and embellished them. The consequence of which was a much more painful collision of these two opposing forces than I could possibly hope to endure alone.

Needless to say, I did survive this collision between the inner and outer armies of my spirit. The process did not start and end with one monumental purging of layers and layers of fortified false existence. As experienced in one of my dreams, a twisted pile of metal, which was the furnace of my home, ended up outside of the door of my house. It was smoldering and was wrapped in several strands of barbed wire. Jagged pieces of scorched steel and wire stuck out from all sides of what a later analysis of this dream revealed to be my very own soul. The inside of my house was still covered with a visible layer of soot and grime even though the beast within me had been purged. The point of this poignant, yet unsettling dream was to inform me that although I had done the good work of facing the monster that held my self in the chambers of its own learned darkness, the soot that was left on the new white walls of me that emerged still needed to be cleaned.

The cleaning that followed my primary, calamitous quake took me several years to accomplish before the walls of my inner house took on the bright white sheen of my lost, creative childhood self. Synchronicity soon abounded. I found that what little creative work I was putting forth was being received exceptionally well by my peers and teachers. Satisfied that I realized and recovered what the focal point of a long, lost self, I became flooded with emotionally sparked creativity. The problem was that I was spending more time dreaming about them than acting on them. The results were depressing as I struggled between planning and doing. "I'll do it" became a common theme in my head. Low self esteem and anxiety took hold as I saw other artists whom I thought possessed no greater talent than I did, were accomplishing more than I was. I was working piece-meal on a novel and a portfolio of short stories that were not emerging much farther when I started two years ago.


As I lay in my bed that night in a little Hotel in Rangeley, Maine, I became acutely aware of how alive I was. Al of my senses seemed to have been fine-tuned. I felt my legs standing on the floor, I kept telling myself over and over again that I was alive, and the meal that I had eaten that in the cabin of my rescuers was still vivid in my memory. The following morning on the way back to my new found friends' cabin I kept looking out at the mountains and the vast wilderness of the Western Maine woods, I inhaled every second of everything within my vision and my immediate, and my distant off physical space.

I was alive both spiritually and physically. As a spiritual message, I took my experience very seriously. Something was telling me that I was supposed to be around for a while longer. Precisely what for I did not know, but I knew that I was not at the end of my cameo appearance in this universe just yet. A musician friend said that maybe God wanted me around to play some more blues. I took it to mean it that way too, as well as a good kick in the ass to get going on these other projects that hold some degree of promise for me if no one else.

I have yet to create a masterpiece of any great magnitude. I do, however, have a better appreciation of the masterpiece of the mystery of life and fully appreciate that every day one is alive the universe is telling you that the world is yours and you can do as you wish with it. In a more profound sense, the universe gives us all subtle clues about what it is one is here for and that to read these clues, one must stop and listen to them ever so intently as they are not found in the chaotic everyday lives that we all have succumbed to, but come from deep within the soul and the psyche.

About the author: Bob Lane lives in the Augusta, Maine. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Maine at Farmington and an Associate Degree in Music from the University of Maine at Augusta. Following completion of his music program at UMA, he spent six months traveling across the United States in a van and making his living as a skydiving instructor. Landing in Perris Valley California, Lane lived in the fuselage of a wrecked Twin Beech aircraft and worked as an instructor at Perris Valley Skydiving Center for a year.


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Bob Lane returned to Augusta, Maine where he currently lives after a year in Los Angeles. Bob is an avid outdoorsman and licensed Master Maine Guide, specializing in two person and couples canoe and photography trips. In addition to his "real" job as a Planner for the Maine Department of Labor, he is a well-known photographer in the Kennebec Valley area. A member of the Maine Professional Photographers Association and the Kennebec Valley Art Association, Bob Lane is also a fledgling writer with his first novel in progress and is an experienced Chicago- style blues guitar player.

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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 22). Overboard, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, September 29 from https://www.healthyplace.com/alternative-mental-health/sageplace/overboard

Last Updated: July 18, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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