Friday, February 8, 2013

River Prayer



I have been going to the river for years. It is where I re-find my center, my wholeness in the center of the world - the tiny dot that I am, right in the middle of it all, and when I say all, I mean the entire universe. I don’t mean I am the center of the universe, except in the way that each of us is. This is the only perspective each of us has - it’s the place from which we see everything we can see and feel everything we feel. It is also the place from which we make our ripple out into the universe.

When I go to the river, I find myself. Every time. Each time I go, I am coming from some place inside myself, and through my movement into the woods, down the trail, over the rocks and red clay, the hemlock and pine needles - releasing their fresh, uplifting fragrance underfoot - to where I can hear the rush of water coursing through rapids like blood through arteries amplified, the inside of me is approaching the outside of me. I can feel the gentle air on my skin, the ambivalent breeze through my hair. I can hear the rustle of leaves and the crackle of softening acorns and brittle branches as I continue around the bend, descending closer to the beach, which is different every time I see it - sand being heaved from one side of the great snake and drifting to the other each time the flow swells in a storm.

I feel this place through all my senses, thus defining my own borders. My senses each define me differently. How far can I see? How quiet a noise can I perceive and at what great distance? What plants can I detect with my nose? Is that the river’s mud or an otter or some rotting leaves that smells so pungent? What is the temperature of the air on my skin? How fast is that wind, and from what direction? What time is it, based on the lean of the sun in the sky, or is it too cloudy to tell? Is there any moisture in the air? How soft is the dirt and clay underfoot, and do these rocks shift when I put my weight onto them? Can I taste rain or the sleepy spring bubbling out of the ground on my tongue?

Here i am. This is me. This is where I am, and these are my edges.

Really?

No. I am not a place. I am not a sensation. I am not a person. I am not the sum of all this information I am taking in with my senses.

I am a relationship. I am an interaction. I am a subtle response to elements. I am a continually changing relationship of my own elements, in no way independent from these shifting elements wherever I am.

I am an act of faith, in reverence to beauty. Every step I take, each breath a savoring of it all. Every movement a knowing, a deepening of this relationship to the wholeness. The minutest shift a coming closer to yet another center of the universe, each step opening a whole new world as I look from an ever new center. I cannot walk into the same woods, the same house, the same river twice. I can never take the same route or follow the same path again. Coming back it will all be different. I will be different. The air will have changed, with the light and the humidity and way the trees sound and the gravel under tires. And the ripple that is mine will have, ever how subtly, changed everything.

I have gone to the river for years. It is where I can let go. It is where I can come back. It is where I can say what needs to be said. Sometimes I write things in the sand for the river to wash away. Some times I give it my pain. My desire. My beg of forgiveness. Sometimes I send someone a message. Sometimes I reiterate the words of a friend who has passed on. I trust the river with all of these. The river does not judge me. The river will not tell anyone. The river can receive me. The river carries me. The river hears me. The river sees me.

The river feels me, but without specificity. You see, the river is made of so many drops of water, and they’re moving so fast that when I slip into the river, those drops each feel a tiny bit of me and their stories of me change so fast as they all keep flowing down stream, feeling the fish, the rocks, the sand, the trees the deer, the panther, the bear, the otter, the crawfish, the great boulders keening in the current. The river’s story of me is in such small increments I am of no consequence. And yet I return and return and return and return.

I return so many times that the drops of water that touched me have made it all the way to the ocean. They have made it all the way across the ocean and up the coast. Those drops have made it all the way up into the sky and been squeezed back into the field, soaked down into the aquifer, gurgled back out through a spring, into the creek and stream and back into the river again. Just like the molecules of air out of my lungs have been around the world, so have those drops of water.

And they carry me. They carry my heart. They carry my wishes. They carry my energy. They carry my prayers. They carry the prayer that I am. And there are more of them every time I go to the river.

When I put my prayers into the river they will grow. Each drop in the river will tell the others. Each tributary will bring more friends, more prayers, and by the time my prayers reach the ocean, they will be strong. They will be millions - no quadrillions - strong. And who knows, maybe someday they will fill the ocean and water the forests I love so much as they keep returning to the river.

The river is a prayer. It is a prayer for life. It is a prayer for survival. It cuts its way downhill - always following gravity’s pull, always to a bigger body of water, as if iron to a magnet. It is a prayer for wholeness, always completing its cycle, with no knowledge of itself - just doing what it must, the only thing it can do.


I send my prayers of gratitude into the river. The most important prayers of all. I am so grateful to the river. I am so grateful for it. I am so thankful for the boulders and pebbles and grains of sand - transformed as such by the river. I need not explain this gratitude, for a tree once helped me to understand and feel the difference between “thank you” and “thank you for.....” There is no comparison.

Be ever grateful. Be ever grateful for beauty. For the trees - each one by one. For the water, which is the same water that has always been here. for each person who graces your life. Tell them why from time to time, but most importantly, just acknowledge them. See them. Feel them. Let them know you do. And tell the river, too.

c)Honor Woodard February 2013

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