Portage. It’s pronounces por-tij. It’s when you carry your canoe on land from one navigable waterway to another. It stinks. It’s not what you signed up for. You went canoeing to float on the serene glassy river, not lug this torture devise up overhead awkwardly. As you struggle to carry the weight, you mourn the loss of the floating, the gliding, the easy paddle, the coasting.
Now, we find ourselves surrounded by mosquitos, stomping in wetlands, with the weight of Atlas on our shoulders. That weight is grief. We are grieving the loss of human lives. Tens of thousands. We are grieving the loss of freedom. We cannot move around as we have done. Our favorite shops are closed. We cannot drive at times. We are surrounded by people in our space, or we are alone in our yawing emptiness. We are under room quarantine.
We carry the burden of lost sports season, lost income, lost opportunities: the what-ifs. Will I be able to afford college now and will I be able to return to it? To work? To concerts? To camps? Maybe you had to postpone your wedding. All of that planning and now it is all lost.
But what is to be found? What is the silver lining? We are plodding, slogging though the weeds. Yet, we are close to the next pond, river, or lake. We just need to hold that boat up a bit longer. We need this small vessel. It got us this far and there’s no getting back without it.
We are in what scholars call “a liminal state.” Liminal means “in between.” We know from whence we came. But the conditions have changed. We did not choose this new not-so-normal. We have been stripped of statuses past. Who am I now? Can I support my family or myself if the markets continue this way? What do I need to strip down, to peel away so that the only burden I need bear is this canoe on my shoulder. I can’t carry much more than this, so what else can I cast off, get rid of that is dead weight?
As we meander in this liminal unknowing, perhaps a reminder is timely: we are all on a journey. We are all sharing this common epoch. Solidarity has grown a new limb. Empathy is abounding. Embrace, as much as possible, the journey at hand. Try not to wish it away, speed it up, or shirk the burden of the now. It is indeed all that we have and all that we can “control”. Portage is a noun meaning a place where carrying is necessary. Carry on.