The River as Life

 

Barbara Brady

To get us all in the mood for summer, here's a piece from Barbara Brady about a trip down the Green River last summer that also teaches some good life lessons.

It was a perfect July day:  84 degrees and sunny. The water was high and moving fast as each of us lowered ourselves into the inner tubes that would carry us down the Green River in Saluda, NC over the next 2 ½ hours. After careening over several patches of white water, I felt bliss, connected to the blue sky, trees, dragonflies swooping down on us, the gurgling, rushing sounds of the white water, and our group of friends. I felt awe at the power of the river, but I also started seeing it as a metaphor for life.

When it’s moving fast, you don’t want to buck the current, but you need to trust and go with the flow. On this trip, I noticed that, while I usually let the river take me where it wanted, at times I tried to steer with my hands. A few times I stayed in place, paddling my hands against the current until others caught up. And it got tiring. I wondered how often we use others as our excuse to not go when life is beckoning, and in what other ways we hold ourselves back from letting ourselves completely go with the flow of life. At one point, a friend and I were on the river’s edge, holding on to separate branches, waiting for the others. When it was time to get back in the main flow, she told me to let go and she’d catch me. I tried reaching for her, forgetting I was still holding onto the branch. She reminded me: “Let go of the branch!” I let go, and she easily caught me and pushed me towards the middle of the river. Of course! You can’t let the river take you or someone help you if you’re still holding on to something on the side.

At the end, I floated right past our landing point.  And, once out of the tube, I found myself over my head. The tube bobbed downstream. I tried swimming against the current to the other side but made little headway, with sneakers weighing me down and an empty plastic water bottle in one hand. Panicking, I screamed for help, and a woman swam to me and finally got us out. I relearned the necessity of asking, even yelling for help when I’m in over my head, not taking anything that will weigh me down on my journey, and letting go of extraneous stuff (the water bottle) that’s keeping me from living life fully. I also learned the folly of tubing without a life preserver!

So how about you? In what ways are you resisting where life is calling you to next? How often do you try to control your direction rather than allow life to lead and show you the way? What are those things you’re holding onto (attachments, resentment, worry), that are keeping you on life’s edge vs. in the flow of life? How often do you ask for help when you need it?

Check out “Find the River” by R.E.M.: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIJGlTu5sEI.

 

 

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