The greater yet to be…
As I write this, I’m sitting at a place called Weirs Rapids, a spot alongside the Maumee River where, when the water is at the perfect level, it creates a series of gentle water falls, and a magical mist that creates a series of faint rainbows on the surface of the water. On this particular day, it strikes me that this place and I have a rich history together. We first found each other eight years ago, when I was feeling overwhelmed, and took a random drive, searching for answers to questions I didn’t yet have the courage to ask.
I’d thought I’d taken a country drive simply to clear my mind, yet as I drove, I found myself desperate to find something. As I took turn after turn, it felt like I was trying to get lost, losing all sense of where I’d started, seeking any point of interest I could find in what had become a monotonous Midwestern landscape. I had a sense of anxious yearning, thinking, there has to be more than this.
As much as I was looking to find something new outside myself, I later realized I was also seeking an internal change; at the time my life felt as flat and ordinary as the farm fields stretching in every direction. Nothing lit me up anymore, I was tired and uninspired. Maybe because I expected to find very little on this drive, I let go of all sense of logic and let my intuition take over, sometimes seeking points on the horizon that felt right, other times letting myself be pulled by the way it felt when I read the name of a road. Eventually, I turned down a tiny road that led to the rapids, and the small spot on the bank where I’ve come time and time again. Driving without a destination led me to find this incredible hidden place, so when I come here, I am always reminded of the beauty that I find when I feel free enough to let myself wander.
Sometimes years have passed before I return, sometimes only months, and this time I am returning for the second time in a week, needing a moment of centering in the midst of necessary chaos before I pack my life into a small suitcase and begin a nine month adventure. Surprisingly, though I was here only three days ago, today the spot where I laid a blanket out and enjoyed a sunny, warm spring day is underwater and the river, lazy only days before, is a powerful force, tugging at tree roots, debris rushing by as rainwater angrily tears away anything in its path .
Maybe that’s another reason why this place holds meaning to me; no matter how short the period of time between visits, the river always changes. Sometimes I find a muddy bank covered in skeletal winter trees, struggling not to be pulled downstream, and other times a dry sandy shore, an entire river bed exposed and a perfect path of stones laid out encouraging a lazy stroll from one bank to the other. Likewise, there are never the same sounds; some days I’ve been enveloped in a howl of cold wind and other warm days the rumble of motorcycles has faded into the distance revealing the noisy proclamations of flying geese returning for Ohio summer. Some days I’ve been here alone, and other days the rapids were full of fisherman, laughing and shouting to each other, standing knee deep in the flow.
The philosopher Heraclitus once said, “You cannot step twice into the same river.” I love this, and it’s so true- the natural world brilliantly and repeatedly reminds us of the inevitability of change. Sometimes it’s through the gentle change of seasons, change barely discernible in each moment but constantly occurring nonetheless. Other times we are violently shaken awake to the force of change as floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, or tornadoes sweep away humanity’s invented sense of security. Whether quiet and gradual or loud and abrupt, nature never fails to open my eyes to something I’ve easily forget, that I live in a dynamic universe. Sometimes I try to hide from this truth, and other times I think I’ve often tried to create change in my life in an attempt to beat nature to the punch; irrationally hoping that if I seek out change it won’t be able to catch me by surprise, that I’ll somehow be in complete control. Yet here I sit, feeling incredibly aware of how little I can know about what lays ahead, a blend of fear and excitement rumbling in my stomach. It’s paradoxical, because while I don’t want to say goodbye until I know what it is I’m saying hello to, it’s also the mystery and the intoxicating unknown that have always moved me forward, and allowed me to embrace new experience.
I found this written in the back of an old notebook today; Half of the human life is saying goodbye- don’t be at war with half your life. I don’t know where I heard it, but the reminder was welcomed. What a battle I’ve often waged trying to prevent my life from shifting, to escape the inevitability of and perhaps ignoring the blessings that are inherent in change. I don’t think I’m alone in this, we all have this tendency to cling to our favorite moments, wanting them to last forever, yet on some level recognizing their impermanence is what makes them magic.
The happiest moments are of course the hardest to let go of when they end. Sometimes we stick around too long, hoping for a repeat. I’ve often found myself clinging to relationships, jobs, and situations that have reached their expiration date, only to realize that whatever magic I was seeking has already passed, feeling sad that I didn’t recognize the meaning of those moments while they were happening. In the midst of a period of great change, I’m trying to embrace the knowledge that any seemingly inconsequential thing that is happening right now might be the memory I cherish in a year, and to appreciate each accordingly. I’m embracing change by breathing deeply into each moment and staying open to the possibility of more magic moments that are just around the corner. I think Heraclitus is right, we can’t step into the same river twice… but we can choose to step willingly into the ever flowing river of change, allowing it to carry us the greater yet to be.