In my backyard I have a pleasant waterfall. Every day I hear the sound of water returning to itself as it falls and swirls over cold hard stones. The water is stuck in a Sisyphean cycle, falling downward only to be pushed back up, going absolutely nowhere.
There is a river near my home. I walk down to unfamiliar places carved by a storm of biblical proportions. The river, more a stream most seasons, now meanders through fields where Black Angus once grazed. It makes its way in and out of its old riverbed, following the instructions of a fickle Mother Nature. Even in its altered state I find peace in the river. In spite of the destructive flood the river still knows where it is going. The river is not stuck.
I was. Stuck, that is. I’d been through my own storm of biblical proportions and felt like the water feature in my backyard, cascading down only to be pumped back to where I began. I read the words of poet Mark Nepo: “Can you endure your uncertainty until it shows you another deeper way?” I did not like Mark Nepo.
A year ago I visited friends in New England. Though it was mid-March, the full moon cast its scattered shadow on fresh-fallen snow. David was not feeling well. Carol and I talked by the fire. She looked at the stuck me and said, “You cannot go back. You have to let go.” Carol prophetically tells the truth you do not want to hear. You hear it because you know you are loved.
I have to fill my backyard waterfall every seven days. The water, weary of its circular journey, gives up and evaporates. The babbling brook is not self-sustaining. It requires electricity to run the pump and a human to fill the basin. It has to be handled. The river does not have to be handled. If you notice, every time the Army Corps of Engineers tries to handle any river they only make things worse. Rivers should not be handled. They should be trusted.
I believe life is linear, not circular. We are going somewhere and the somewhere matters. I am learning to trust the flow. Occasionally I move against the rushing waters, but that does nothing but exhaust body and soul. Only by moving forward do the possibilities unfold. Raging storm or meandering stream, trusting the flow is essential if I am to have any hope of reaching the open sea. And I do so want to reach the open sea, that place of indigo waves and cerulean skies, teeming with life and hope and many new beginnings.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Victor U