There’s a feeling of serenity when one spends time by the water. It’s ripples are almost mesmerizing. The water flows freely like a child who can’t wait to explore new territory. It’s consistent, calming, and beautiful. As I’ve explored many different venues over the years, my favorite places to be are on bridges where the rivers flow in rhythm singing their own calming melody.
Some of the rivers have fish. Others are polluted from the pollution of man. Still, there are a few rivers left that are so clear and pristine that you can almost touch the bottom because they are so clear that they leave little or nothing to the imagination. These are my favorite kinds of rivers. In many ways, it reminds me of how simple things can be when the world clouds and muddies the water.
Maybe that’s why in life we love the tranquility of the water. It’s a cleansing in many ways. Just as the water from the river provides life, our survival depends on water for survival. Rivers and streams are known for calming folks from the stress of the every day world. Perhaps it’s because of this that folks like to go fishing, or kayaking, or any type of activity that gets them in the water.
Hiking along the river is also a favorite past time for many. I know for me, I love to hike. When I get the chance, I go to the parks to hike along the trails and just have a little me time. One of my favorite parks has a lake. This lake is special to me because it allows me to have just a break in my mundane life to enjoy the slight currents that roll seamlessly along the top of the water. It is here that I think about the river.
Growing up, my parents took me white water rafting in one of the rivers near Tennessee. I was a little scared at first but I absolutely loved it. The river sent us through various cycles. At first everything was calm and beautiful. It was filled with clear water that you could see all the way to the bottom. You could literally see the fish swimming endlessly. Keep in mind this was in the 80’s before all the polution was so bad that the water would eventually end up tainted and littered. At that point, the water was crisp, full of wonder and cold. It was chilly, but not so cold that it was unbearable. The best part was that we were exploring the river together.
As we went down the river a little further, the current picked up. Eventually we made our way to the best parts of white water rafting. We were drenched when we finished but the paddling, the adventure and the love of the water made time stop for us even if it was just for a spell. The truth is that no matter what my parents did, the river made me feel like I had been one with it. I guess you could say there is a small amount of romanticism but to me, there was a big part of me that longed to go back. I never did. Time got away from me. Excuses became plentiful. I will go back but it won’t be the same. My dad has passed. My mom has no interest in going and most of my friends don’t enjoy that kind of recreation. It’s always better to do things with people you care about.
As I write this tonight, I let my mind wander back to the river. I can literally still hear the rustling of the water, the movement of the rippling waves slowly caressing the bank. I hear the birds chirping in the background and the trees swaying in the wind. I hear the water beating upon the rocks and the sound of others gleefully exploring the wonderful nature around them. Part of me longs to be a part of the river. Part of me is grateful for the memories because it takes me back to a happy memory. It allows me to lose myself for just a spell and to recognize that nature is God’s gift to us. It’s like a present that won’t go back in the box. It’s ever changing and magnificent. Rivers can increase in water or decrease depending on rainfall or lack thereof but the one constant that remains is that the rivers are a refuge for nature.
As I got older, I had the opportunity to go to various camps with different types of rivers and streams. They were always one of my favorite hangouts. When I wanted to study music professionally, I used to play my flute and piccolo by the lake in Brevard, NC. There was a waterfall with a river not far from the camp that several of us used to go to. We loved exploring. I think when you are young, it’s natural to want to explore the areas around you. I loved the woods and the water. In a way they were my home away from home. There’s something special about being in an area where the earth is non-judgmental, the air is crisp and the surroundings are vivid with colors and the sounds melodic and graceful.
Now that I’m an adult, the closest I usually get to a river is to go the parks. Occassionally I get to the mountains and can get near a river but not often enough. When I feel stressed and just want to have an honest conversation with God and the universe, I like to be near water. It’s soothing, it relaxes my soul and it manages to allow my heart to not feel so much anger even when I want to tell someone where they can go. I’m very grateful that the river is an experience I had in my life. There are those who will never get the opportunity to explore one and those who live in and on the water.
Imagine your stress being put in a raft. Imagine the oars used to paddle onto the water and letting the water wash away the stress. Now, imagine the peace that comes from knowing it’s a new day. It’s a new time. It’s a new beginning. Rivers remind me a lot of being born. The wash things out and make way for the new and die out when it’s their time. While the rivers are flowing steadily, the rivers provide new things. There’s always something to explore. It’s a lot like life. The question is what will you allow your rivers to teach you? I hope each of you finds something to keep your soul alive. There has to be something that allows you the zen needed to find the balance in all the craziness in this world. For me it’s the river. What is it for you?