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I often say that my husband and I had our first date in a canoe, but of course that’s an exaggeration. Our first date was in December. But it’s no exaggeration to say that camping and fishing are an important part of who we are as a couple. My husband has a passion for the wilderness and for canoeing and fishing. And I’ve learned, over the years, to love the wilderness too. We’ve spent a lot of time together in a canoe. Our relationship has been tested as a result.

Like my first canoe trip in 1985, when it snowed. That was definitely a test. Or our canoe trip back in 2014.

We’d barely begun paddling when it started to rain, and my lower back began to throb. “I’ll loosen up,” I said to Hubby when he suggested we abort the trip. The rain eased when we reached the portage, and I felt better to be up walking, even if it was with a pack on my back.

But as we loaded the canoe and paddled off, the rain began again; my back throbbed, and my 10-year-old rain jacket gave up the ghost. In minutes I was soaked through. An hour later we reached our campsite, but it was raining too hard to set up. Now, tired, in pain and very wet, I began to shiver.

Me learning to handle the stern of the canoe on Booth Lake in Algonquin Park, 2010.

I leaned against the trunk of a big pine tree, out of the rain. Hubby rummaged through the packs, found an emergency poncho and pulled it over my head. From the fish bag he pulled out the big rubber fishing gloves with liners, and I pulled them on. Then as I leaned against that big tree, out of the wind, shivering, back throbbing, the mosquitos started to buzz around the only part of me showing… my face. I remember murmuring over and over, “I am NEVER doing this again!”

We came close to turning around then. Hubby said I only had to make the call. I knew he’d feel guilty if we stayed, and I was miserable, but I’d feel guilty if we went home after all our hard work. Besides, it was Hubby’s birthday. I sniffed and gritted my teeth, and we stayed. And I’m happy we did.

The sun came out, and the breeze blew the bugs away. Hubby built a big fire, sat me down, pressed a hot toddy into my hands and did all the work of setting up and making dinner.

Later, my back pain gone, we ate, sipped wine and watched the sun set. The next few days were wonderful. We paddled, swam, ate freshly caught fish, laughed, drank wine and on cloudless nights, watched for satellites or howled at the wolves.

You know, I think marriage is like fishing. You have to take the bad with the good. To keep paddling through the rain, and hope the sun comes back out. And learn to laugh when the bugs are biting, but the fish aren’t.


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Sue Burpee lives in Ottawa, Canada, but she grew up on the east coast. After teaching high school Creative Writing for 30 years, she decided to put her money where her mouth is, take her own advice, and just start writing. Her blog High Heels in the Wilderness is the result. Sue says she is equal parts girly-girl and tomboy. Fifty percent fashion and 50 percent fishing, so to speak. She and her husband love to travel, ski, canoe, camp and fish together. They also love to spend time in the kitchen together, where Sue is definitely second in command. Sue loves to wardrobe plan and shop, but she does this on her own. Hubby is not invited. Her blog chronicles her travel and style adventures, what she is reading, plus a few stories about growing up down east.


  1. Sue, If I’d written this post it would be called, On Marriage and Scuba Diving. My first husband and I used to go diving in the Atlantic, the Bahamas and off the Yucatan in Mexico. With all the weights I had to wear… because I was so buoyant, the tanks, BC vest, gear and my underwater cameras, it was exhausting before I even got in the water. There were times I wanted to stay in the boat, but you always need to dive with a buddy, plus my husband loved it, and more than anything… I didn’t want to wimp out and disappoint him. Afterward, I was always glad I went. You’re carrying a pack in the front and back. It looks heavy, but balanced. I’m afraid if I tripped it would be one of those “Help! I’ve fallen and can’t get up” moments. xoxox, Brenda

  2. I agree! Life and marriage is full of compromises that’s for sure. Ski vacations, I am not a fan of the cold and just because I started skiing as a kid doesn’t mean I really don’t want to as an adult but ……

    • It’s a fine line, isn;t it? Between doing something you don’t really want to do… and trying to take joy in the same things your spouse does. Okay… maybe joy is too strong a word there. Ha.

  3. Great post and apt analogy. We give and take, endure the tragedies and revel in the triumphs, explore, discover, and we love. The grand journey that lacks a map or a specified destination. May the sun shine, the fish bite, and the fire stay lit.

  4. Great post and great advice! Thanks for the positive post on marriage. Those of us with a few years under our belt and a bit of perspective need to speak up for marriage and its benefits these days. Well done!

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