top of page

Appreciating Every Moment by Allison Kallemeyn

artwork by Kennedy Lackas


For as long as I can remember, I have spent hot summer days and cool summer nights cruising the great Mississippi River on my parents’ boat. To be honest, I spent a whole phase of my life terrified of it. They were the chaotic and unrelenting waters that could pull me in and suck me under and I'd be gone forever. Drowned at the bottom or eaten by a ginormous catfish. It took me years to realize that if I just took my time and really looked around and admired it, I could see how beautiful this place was. 

My first few years spent out on the water were the toddler years when I was too young to care or realize that I could fall out of the boat. But once I hit the age where I realized if we hit a wave just right I could go flying into the freezing mucky water, I hated it.

It was a roasting Saturday in mid-July. My parents had packed the cooler with snacks and sodas, hooked up the boat to the hitch, and we’d driven just a few miles down the road from our house to the Thomson Marina. My little yellow life jacket with the blue straps was tightly secured, my pink water shoes were on, and I was ready to get to the warm golden beach. But first, I had to brave the boat ride. Our dark blue v-bottom was bobbing with the rhythm of the water as I approached. My dad was behind the wheel starting the boat and letting the motor pur to life. My mom was in the chair next to him putting towels under the dash and my older brother was sitting in the front of the boat waiting excitedly for a wild ride. The very opposite of me. 

I climbed in over the edge of the boat and claimed my seat on my mother's lap, the only seat in the boat that had a handle in front of it. We left the dock. It was slow at first where the water was shallow, but once we hit the channel it was time. The boat's speed kicked up and the bow rose out of the water. The wind bashed at my face and whipped my hair into my eyes. Windy days were the worst. It makes the water choppy. The boat bounced off the water like hard cement instead of easily gliding through it. A red shiny speed boat flew by on our left and veered in front of us leaving us in the wake of their motor. Up and down, up and down, up and down we went banging off the solid, rock-like water. My knuckles were white as I gripped onto the handle in front of me and my eyes were shut so tight my face scrunched. In my head, I just kept repeating, “Don't let go, don't fall in.”

I could tell we'd almost made it to the beach as we took the corner around the familiar bend of trees. But as we did the boat naturally tipped to the side and water sprayed up at my face. It was cold and shocking and smelled like fish and shadflies. Finally, the boat slowed down and I looked up, Andrew was still at the front of the boat grinning and sitting on his knees enjoying the ride. I, on the other hand, was taking what felt like my first breath in the last ten minutes. 

It is now a warm September day and I’m seventeen years old. I’ve been out on the river for several more years and I’ve gained a bit more perspective. This day we took out the flat bottom. This would have freaked younger me out due to its shorter sides and the proximity to the water but I don’t mind. I'm just excited to spend a day with friends and family under the sun and on the sand. We set out for Breezy Beach. It’s the hopping place to be in the summertime. The ride there was pretty rough. It was another windy day and the water was harsh. 

It was on the ride back that something changed. We decided to ride through the sloughs to get back to the docks. This is the backwater and swamps of the Mississippi. But as sketchy as it sounds, it was actually incredible. The water in these back offshoots of the river is quite shallow so you can't go speeding through them. It's also surrounded by a canopy of thick, lush green trees that block out the cold wind. This means the water isn't choppy, instead, it's as smooth as glass. The boat glides on top in a swan-like manner, which gave me the opportunity to look around. The sun was starting to set, slightly hidden behind the trees but still glinting off the water a bit. My straw cowboy hat’s brim blew back slightly in the gentle breeze. Instead of motors and crashing water, I listened to the melodies of birds chirping from the treetops. Soft moss and vegetation grew up on logs and tree trunks. I let myself breathe in a big gulp of fresh air and relaxed as we slowly weaved our way through a maze of fallen trees. The tension in my shoulders eased and I sat back against my seat. This gorgeous day and beautiful scene became a picture in my mind that I’ve saved and cherished. 

This day and in this moment, it clicked in my mind. A river is swift, rough, brutal, crashing, flowing, and wild. Which is a lot like how life can be sometimes. Life can be fast, chaotic, unrelenting, and scary, and makes me want to scrunch my eyes shut and hold on for dear life because I feel like I might fall and drift away. But in times like that, I need to remind myself that I can slow down. I can take my time and float through the sloughs. I can even drift along or just try and stay afloat if I need to. But I need to take the time to see everything around me and appreciate all the beautiful and wonderful things in life. I don’t want to miss out on it. I want to take that big deep breath of air and enjoy every little precious moment in life. Exactly as I enjoyed and savored that image of the water and trees and golden glinting sunlight. 

In the vastness of the Mississippi River and in the vastness of life it truly is important to take the time to enjoy. Life is fleeting and that's just a fact. But I refuse to waste it being afraid of the future or even regretting the past. From now on, as best as I can, I am going to try and remember that I do not need to move so fast. I can slow down and enjoy the ride whether I'm pushing on through the crashing waves or gliding across the glassy water. 

bottom of page