Mike and I spent most of the afternoon yesterday out hiking. It was the first warm, sunny day we’ve had in ages in Ohio… and it put me in an especially grateful mood just to be existing and feeling the sunshine. We went to a big overlook high up on a ridge, one we hadn’t been to in over a year. It looked out on the river, which snaked and curled down through the valley below.
Afterwards we drove down into the valley to hike around by the river that we had just stood above. It was an area neither Mike nor I had ever hiked before… and it led us to a beautiful cascading waterfall that came out to meet the river from a side creek. It nearly took my breath away. We remembered seeing this very ravine a year ago, from far across the river, not knowing how to reach it. There was a deep feeling of accomplishment about finally discovering the way to get to this spot - particularly as it was quite on accident. I mentioned to Mike, I could sit here all day and watch the water tumbling softly down the thin plates of shale on its journey to the river.
It made me so grateful for this place I now call home… and indirectly, all the change that has had to happen to lead me here. I felt a bit emotional about it. So much has changed so fast in the past 5 years of my life. There is often bitterness, or in the least, discomfort about that. Maybe some resentment, too. And understandably so… who wouldn’t resent their life when their partner up and dies on them and sends them on a whole new adventure that was a bend in the creek of their life they were not expecting. Leaving careers, leaving jobs, leaving cities you called home, leaving the state you called home, leaving friends and family far away. Everything has felt like leaving for the past 5 years. Which is one way to see it. And it’s easy to get caught seeing things only from one direction sometimes.
Yesterday though, that little side creek reminded me that leaving is also arriving somewhere new. As it made its way down a steep ravine, it was leaving behind a gentler pace and a landscape it had grown accustomed to. It dropped into a small pool and had to make it’s way down through a thick, twisted pile of fallen trees and rocks. The landscape was bigger, and more chaotic, but it also leveled out a bit, and allowed for the pace to slow. Then, as it left this space, trickling its way under trees and licking around the sides of rocks and branches, it slipped quietly into the raging river. Suddenly, the pace was unlike anything it’s ever known before. It was brisk, and powerful in a new way. Exhilarating, but also a bit scary for how different it is.
It made me think about life. About all the twists and turns we go on. All the places we end up that we didn’t plan on. The bends in our own path to the ocean. The other creeks that join us on the journey, forming rivers, strengthening each of us. All the debris we must somehow traverse, and how we never truly know what is around the bend or down the banks ahead of us.
When things are rough, it’s easy to assume an attitude of hesitation about what lies ahead of us. I’m guilty of that for sure. It's moments like these though, sitting and watching one small, singular part of the journey of a river, that remind me how beautiful the whole thing is. And how meaningful it is...
If we are fortunate enough to truly live, then how vast and varied the river of our lives will be. It will leave marks in the earth and create beautiful landscapes and bring life to many. Because living means we aren’t sitting stagnant in a pool, it means we are moving… sometimes just at a trickle, and other times as a raging river, or rhythmically as a powerful ocean... but always moving. It means we are always already leaving places behind us, but it also means we are already arriving somewhere new, each and every day.
Some of those new places will not be easy traveling. They may slow us to a trickle, but they will be beautiful in their own right. And eventually, after a time of slowly trickling through, the landscape will change again. A wide and lush valley may open up and we may find ourselves beautifully surprised at where we've arrived next.