My head has been in knots usually reserved for hearts and stomachs. Every decision in front of me seems impossible to make. I went out for the evening with my husband unsure if I felt like going out or not. What to order at the restaurant was so difficult that I almost got up and walked out. After dinner we borrowed a canoe from a friend. Not because I wanted to canoe. More because I didn’t know anything else I wanted to do and the canoe had been offered. In fact as we drove to get it and as we loaded it on the car, I was pretty sure it was a stupid idea.
There were no apparitions on the river, or maybe there were. We watched cormorants. We passed over places where rocks lay inches below the surface and over depths far beyond what we could see. We did a little talking, but mostly we paddled. I drank the smell of the water, the feel of the wood in my hands, the movement of the river in currents here and there, the rocks of the islands. We saw an otter and came upon picnics and families. I liked especially as we rounded one island that the first sign I saw of human life was a woman’s sun hat. The shape of the island, the green of the trees and shrubs, more rocks, and then a broad brimmed hat with a woman underneath it. Even the unshapely older woman in a bikini standing with a cigarette (and music blaring much too loudly) in front of her tent helped. (I can’t explain this last one. Redemption is a mystery.)
I baptized my feet over the side of the canoe and felt that more of me than that was getting baptized. I knew in that moment that all the knots in my head would sort themselves out. The water was clear, like glass that evening, but I mean clear on the point that sooner or later everything would come together. Everything was going somewhere, even when I lost track of knowing it.
There are ripples on the surface of the water in places. Sometimes it’s because the water is shallow, other times it’s the wind, or a current coming off the bend of an island. Just underneath there are other currents, some pulling one way, some pulling the other. Way down deep are other currents still. Not as subject to the wind and weather, these are the heart of the river. Little riffs of things near the water’s surface invite the canoe to bash itself on the rocks or change to this or that direction. Invitations require response because their threat is real. Yet they are a tiny fraction of a fraction of the driving force of water that is the powerful flow of the river.
Change is constant in the river; so is stability. I left the river with the same set of questions that I brought to it, but different than I came.