Dear Loved Ones,
I went kayaking at a lake near my new church the other day. I’m part of a group on Facebook where people post where they are going and invite others to join them, so I met a woman at the lake and off we went. She had been to this place before, and showed me a cool bridge you can kayak under, and then said there was a canal off the lake that we could go through. We searched for it, coming upon two dead ends. And then I spotted a narrow opening and decided to try it. It was a long, skinny canal, trees overhanging and too narrow to paddle in. I through it must be the wrong place, but something compelled me to keep going. The beaches were brushing the side of the kayak, and you had to do a one sided paddle to move forward, ducking beneath the branches and scraping the bottom of the canal all the way through. But there was light ahead, a wider opening, where, if nothing else, I thought I would be able to turn around.
As I got to this wider part, my breath was taken away. It was a pristine little lake, covered in water lilies, some of which were flowering. Eagles were hanging out in the tress and beavers were swimming around, sometimes slapping their tails hard on the water making a loud, echoing bang. One beaver let me get super close to them before diving under the water, and the whole feeling was magical and Spirit filled. I hung out in this place as the sun set, reluctant to leave, but my kayaking companion was ready to go as the warmth of the day leaked from the air. We made our way back to the main lake, and back to land, but the peace and beauty of this secret lake has stayed with me.
And more than this, the narrow canal has stayed in my mind. It seemed almost like a birth canal, a tight passage to push through to get to a whole new world, and the world it opened onto was one worth the effort.
It made me think of these times we are in where things seem hard and tight, one where caution is needed to navigate. It feels, right now, as if we are making our arduous way through this canal… slapped by the branches of Covid, the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the deaths of more than 200,000 people in this country from a virus that could have been managed much better, by election campaigns that fuel fear and hate, by protests and racism and an ‘us vs them’ mentality. We are scraping along the bottom of human decency most days, and we think this might turn out to be a dead end.
Yet, somewhere ahead, we catch a glimpse or have a sense of, or hope there may just possibly be a widening, an opening, a place where more light is seeping through. And so we keep on, struggling through this time, figuring out where to put our paddle so we can move forward, trying to duck beneath the worst of the branches while other catch us off guard and at scratch us, slowly inching toward a place of peace and hope and light, one obstacle at a time.
The more I sat with this, the more reassured I felt, as I heard the whisper of truth…. “yes, this time is hard. But you are moving through it. And you are heading toward a place where there is more play and peace and light and loveliness. So keep going, keep going. Dodge what you can, know the scratches likely won’t run top deep, remember you won’t get stuck. So keep moving forward as best you can.”
I feel this is a blessing for all of humanity. Yes, this time is hard. But there is a place ahead that is worth fighting toward. Do what you can to reach it.
May it be so.
Dear Loved Ones,
It was my birthday last week, and, before we got to the day, my friend asked me what I wanted to do. I didn’t really know, except I wanted to get take out from the new restaurant in town for dinner, so I said, “Let’s go on an adventure!” She had heard of a place where we could go tubing, so on my birthday we set off to rent our tubes. The shuttle bus took us upstream to the drop off point, and we walked down to the river. The sun was shining, the water was warm, and I was looking forward to a relaxing float down the river back to the beach.
Right where we got on, there were some rapids, and we navigated those well, but soon, after some more rapids, my water bottle got away from me. I jumped off my tube, holding onto it in the current, and tried to get to my water bottle, but I could not reach it as it swirled in an eddy up against the bank, caught in place by a bend in the river. I swam down river a ways, and my phone floated up, out of my pocket. I grabbed it and stuck it deep in my swim suit. The masks we had worn were gone from my pocket too, and I did not see them continue their adventure. As we caught a break from the rapids, my friend and I were laughing at what had happened, calling it a true adventure, not a calm, restful float down the river, joking about what we would tell the other in our monastery about what happened to the one who got truly lost!
As we approached a new set of rapids, and I tried to paddle into the center of the river, but the current pushed me into the bank, flipping me off the tube and down against a large tree trunk. The tube was caught on a branch, and when I tried to get back to it I kept being pushed back against the trunk, realizing that if I tried to rescue the tube I was likely to be thrown against the tree trunk and possibly be hurt. So I made the choice to abandon the tube.
So now, there I was, no water bottle, no masks, cell phone tucked in my swim suit, and no tube, floating down the river. I kept my feet first, in case of underwater rocks and trees, and we worked/swam/floated our way downstream for another 1 ½ hours to the landing beach.
After I got into the rhythm of this stage, the floating without the extra things, and after I realized that all was well with no tube, I began to relax and feel the presence of God. The river was beautiful, the company great, the day was gorgeous, the water warm enough. A sense of gratitude arose, a wellbeing that I don’t think I would have felt if I had still been juggling the water bottle, the tube, the stuff. In this natural, deep in the water state, fully immersed in the present, I could relax and be, floating in the Waters of Life, held by God’s currents, unencumbered.
I have reflected since then what extra things do I carry that feel cumbersome, both on a physical and emotional/spiritual level. What can I leave behind? What am I struggling to keep a hold of, even when everything is pulling it away? And, I have reflected on the danger of wishing for an adventure!
What is God trying to encourage you to let go of? What is pulling you forward?
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.