As a child, the author found that running connected her mind and body. Then she lost that connection, rediscovering it after she began sculling, "the aquatic version of tightrope walking," as Caroline Knapp described it.
She thinks that sculling will be Rowing Lite but learns that capsizing in a tippy boat is easy and re-entry impossible for her. Her internalized Spitfire training--get back into a plane and fly into the wild blue yonder after your plane has been shot down--keeps her going out on the river despite her fear of capsizing. That and the marshmallow chicks she bribes herself with.
One day, she capsizes and no matter what she does, can't get back into the boat. She realizes that her emphasis on control so she won't fall out has been has been flat out wrong, that anyone can and will fall out--the trick is getting back in. After she manages to haul herself back into the boat, she approaches sculling differently. She stops thinking about it as an exercise in control and begins to think about sculling as a partnered dance with the boat. She begins to fall in love with being in her boat, out on the water, trying for but not always achieving boat/sculler alchemy. She realizes that "coming up the slide, going back down the slide, paying attention to body, boat, water, [and] connecting all three" is the path back to the connection she has been searching for.