Today is a holiday in the United States, a day for remembrance of those who have gone before those of us who walk the Earth now. Some remember the soldiers who fought in wars, others remember people they have loved who have passed back to the spiritual world. Remembrance is a two-edged sword; it brings up many feelings that can bring us pain and sorrow, as well as joy and warmth.
Today I walked along the river again. The water level is high, due to all the rain we have been receiving this month. It is gorgeous there now, as green as it ever gets in the prairielands of Colorado. I stood and watched the water gracefully flowing around a group of old willow trees, taking in the simple, wild beauty of nature all around me. A little ways above where I stood, there is a waterfall that flows under a foot-bicycle bridge. As has been the case for many weeks, the water was mightily and majestically falling from the higher to lower section of the river. Above it, the water was smoothly and calmly flowing, then suddenly rapids, with foam and spray and swirling, and then the river again became calm and smoothly flowing downstream to where I stood.
This spectacle seems like a perfect metaphor for our lives now! There is so much energy flowing and swirling all around us throughout the course of a day or a year, it often feels that we get caught up in the rapids and must do whatever we can to simply negotiate them until we can again find a calm place to flow. No matter who we are, our station in life, or where we happen to be standing upon Earth, there are cycles of smoothly flowing and periods of rapid change. It seems completely unavoidable.
Franz Kafka reminds us, “You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
Given this unavoidable conundrum, the question then becomes, How do we navigate the rapids when we arrive at them? Again, there are no simple answers for this (although some may feel they have THE answer to it), but there are certainly choices we can make that will determine the kind of experience we will have there. If we take the metaphor of the river, then it becomes clear that there are a few ways to traverse the rapids. One, if you see or know that they are coming up soon, you can try to get to shore, and simply walk or climb alongside the rapids until you pass them and return to a calmer place to get back into the water. Two, you can make sure your life jacket is strapped on tight, take a deep breath, say a prayer, and go screaming down the rapids. Or three, you can just get out of the water before they hit, and sit on the shore indefinitely, refusing to continue. Are there other choices to navigate the waters of our life? Probably many, but you get the idea. Perhaps a key to navigation is reflection and planning ahead for what you will choose to do when the time comes. Or perhaps you are the sort of person who just takes it all as it comes, and can strategize on the fly. In any case, what we know for sure is that you will face those moments, with varying degrees of grace.
As I was watching the water falling over the rocks a few days ago, I was delighted to observe a friend on the other side. Mister Heron was standing on the edge of a large rock, watching the cascading water with his keen eyes, contemplating the fish he was sure to catch. I sat on my side of the river and watched him for a long time as he patiently watched the water, and waited. Sure enough, eventually he stretched out his neck very far and peered closely into the white water, then in one sure and quick movement, snapped his needle-like beak around a silvery fish. He stood erect and quickly swallowed the fish whole. He seemed very happy then, and after a few moments, flew up to a nearby cottonwood tree to rest and digest. Delighted for him, I stood up and clapped my hands, congratulating him on his expert fisher prowess. It was an inspiring moment.
If I could choose what creature to be on Earth, it would surely be a heron. I have long admired these beautiful and graceful water birds, that can stand for so long, waiting so patiently for the perfect opportunity to catch their fish dinner. They are magnificent to watch flying low over rivers, and have such a spirit of grace and harmony about them. And they love to stand near white water, enjoying the rush of the spray and the force of water around them, utterly fearless. To me, the heron represents a kind of ultimate freedom while living on Earth, a creature of air and water and land: The best of all worlds.
Dear Readers, I wish you all a peaceful and happy time as you find your own ways of traversing both the calm and the rapids of your individual journeys. I honor each one of you for your contribution to the whole of humanity’s slow but sure rise in evolution. Each one of you is precious and important, and I thank you for being here. I see the Light and Love within you, and I honor it.