canoecopia_jpg_t285I just got back from Madison Wisconsin's Canoecopia. What a high-energy, burn-out weekend. This is North America's largest paddle show and I had, once again, the privilege to speak there. Problem was, I lost my voice the day before going to the show. Loosing your voice prior to a major speaking event is like a hockey player playing without ice skates, a ballerina dancing without ballet shoes, a brick layer without a trowel, a canoeists without a paddle….you get the idea. And now, as I write this, I'm sitting in the Madison airport waiting for my plane ride home, wondering how the heck I got through it all.

It started on Thursday, the day before the show; my voice left me sometime during my heated discussion with my "students at risk" class I teach Environmental Leadership to at Sir Sandford Fleming College; it was about how smoking white out on a rolly paper is bad for your health. Or it could be when I was heavily involved in a debate with my drilling students about the blight of the Alberta Oil Sands project. Or it might have been when I was yelling at my dog Ellie to get off the thin ice she wandered on to during our morning walk in the woods. Who knows? I'm not exactly sure when or why I lost it — but I definitely needed it to speak at the paddle symposium. My voice was hoarse enough the morning I left for the U.S. that even the border crossing officer felt sorry for me and decided not to search me this time around.

My audience the first night was a full house; then grew to over capacity the second, and grew beyond that for the final camp chef cook-off (which I lost once again to camp cook Marty and professional Chef Joey). By that point I had sucked on enough cough drops to get major gut-rot and swigged down enough water, tea and orange juice that I was peeing on average about every ten minutes.

Not able to speak properly was getting to me; that was until I realized who my audience really was. They were paddlers. Heck, they were all nice people, who, when met with a challenge, often exceeded well beyond their imagination. So, I asked the audience for help with the show. I asked them to talk about their trips instead of me mumbling through mine. And I suggest they yell out recipes to cook at the chef cook off.

What a blast. But did it work? Was the event a success? Did anyone get anything out of my presentations? I'm guessing so, because as I sit here and write this up on my lab top at the airport, I took notice that some guy beside me is curled up in the terminal chair, snoozing away, with a copy of my book The Happy Camper on his lap. I was thinking of waking him and asking if he liked the book (and the show) but I think I'll leave it to chance that he didn't fall asleep due to boredom of the book's contents itself but that it educed a dreamscape for him to plan his next paddling venture. Voice or no voice, I inspired others to get out and paddle once again — which is why I went to Canoecopia in the first place.