Several years ago, my friend Elizabeth Burke and I rowed twice a week through the Seattle winter. We ventured out without fail as dawn was breaking - rowing two single shells or a double. We'd row from the Fremont Bridge to the Chittenden Locks and back, or maybe across Lake Union and on to Lake Washington. Sometimes we'd come back to our home at the Lake Washington Rowing Club and wipe the ice off our boats. But we always came back with an irrefutable sense of moral superiority! We'd done it again!

Rowing - particularly Rowing Through the Winter - provides a richness of metaphors...instructive in my life as a Family Physician and the Home Dialysis CarePartner for my profoundly ill husband, Steve Williams. Now that Steve is gone, rowing reminds me of consistency and focus - so critical during grieving. Rowing requires balance, as does my life.

Row with me this winter. Linda Gromko, MD

Saturday, February 19, 2011

White Caps on Lake Union

I really needed to row this morning. It had been a busy week, with plenty of stresses to work out on the water.

The wind chimes on my porch were clanging busily as I set out for LWRC. But it didn't look bad; in fact, it was sunny and bright.

Reviews were mixed at the club, though. I heard that the sweep boats had come in; too rough. But another rower assured me that he was going out - and I was planning to take out the "Pig," a Maas Aero Open Water boat. Someday, I'd really like to row a Sound Rowers event. And this would be good practice.

I rowed carefully to the opposite side of the rough waterway, under the Aurora Bridge. In the canal to my right, I could see a single turning around - suggesting that the canal was rugged, too.

I continued on towards Lake Union, white caps in the distance - everywhere. The wind whipped off my baseball cap. I let it go; reaching for it could have tipped me over. Water rushed in over the sides of the boat.

A sweep coach in a launch boat called to me, "What are you doing out here?"

What, indeed? Fearless in my red "Stormy Seas" blow-up vest, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I meandered - dead slide - back to the dock, having covered no more than 500 yards. I admit it was exhilarating! Just not all that smart.

I remember going out in the same little Pig about six years ago on New Year's Day. White caps, again, though not as tough as today. I made it to the south end of Lake Union - again rowing dead slide, and sometimes rowing one oar at a time to maximize stability. I remember thinking that the LWRC log book was the only evidence of my whereabouts. And I didn't have a blow-up vest then. I rowed ever-so-carefully, and very slowly - hugely relieved to be back on terra firma.

Today, as I pulled the Pig out of the water, it practically turned into a sail! The wind buffeted it, and I struggled to keep the little boat safe. Fortunately, George was there to lend a hand and help me carry the Pig home.

Tough day - but fun!

Take care out there.
Linda Gromko, MD

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