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Slayton: A New Outlook


(Host) As 2013 gets underway, long-time journalist and commentator Tom Slayton is thinking about some changes that came into his life in 2012.

(Slayton) The beginning of a New Year is supposed to be a time for renewal - for shedding bad habits, vowing to be a better, thinner, and more productive person. However, my big moment of renewal came not this winter, but last summer - when my wife, Elizabeth, discovered kayaking.

My first inkling that she was interested in taking up this lovely sport came in June, when she suggested that we rent kayaks and go paddling at a nearby lake.

That was quite a surprise because Elizabeth has never been much of an outdoor sports enthusiast. (She once declared, as I tried to lure her into a weekend of camping at a Maine lean-to: I'm not a lean-to kind of girl!)

However, things have changed since she fought her way through cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.She endured everything with remarkable bravery, even the most hellish aspects of chemo, and we were happy that her cancer was successfully removed and has not recurred.

But after it was all over, it gradually became clear that something inside both of us had changed. I hope her illness made me more helpful and aware. It certainly helped me to see more clearly the remarkable woman I'm married to.

And the disease has made some subtle changes in Elizabeth. For whatever reason -cancer, chemotherapy, or that brief peek over the brink of her own mortality - she has become less skeptical, more willing to try new things. She began going to church with a friend, bought hiking poles, even began meditating with me occasionally - all things she had previously not had much time for.

And from that very first June day when she jumped in the kayak, she's never looked back.

Actually,from time to time, she's had to do some backward looking, since she paddles faster than I do. Noted one paddling friend: She's really pumped! I'm bringing up the rear partly because I prefer to kneel in an open canoe, so that's what I'm usually in. And a kayak's double paddle beats a canoe's single one almost every day.

But it's also because our friend was right: She really IS pumped!

Through summer and fall, we had some great outings, picnics, swimming, and a few days at a remote lodge on a lake in the Adirondacks. Toward the end of the summer, we bought her a bright orange kayak - though she's quick to remind me that the actual color of the little boat is mango!

And since Elizabeth, despite the changes, remains a stylish girl, we added a bright orange hat and a spiffy double paddle with bright orange-red blades. It's a treat to see her go tearing across he blue-green water with her orange hat and orange paddles splashing in the reflection made by her orange boat.

That's the image that I am holding close, as 2012 becomes 2013. To me it says many good things - resilience, growth, a return to health - and the promise of many years of outdoor adventures to come - together.