Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bends In The River...

Surviving my grave yard shift last night, I return to the semi-conscious world of the living and Memorial Day Weekend. I'm not exactly certain *what* has inspired me to discuss "river bends" today, except that I have taken some time (while awake early this morning) to dust off my memory (a general theme for Memorial Day) and think about some of the people that have gone before me...not only soldiers defending this country, but events with family, friends, and strangers who have crossed my path, sometimes altering my "flow" forever. I had an opportunity to *remember* several life events early this morning, while listening to the birds serenade in the sun...a quiet time just for myself to ponder those "bends" in my own river of life.

I've had the wonderful fortune of traveling down several well-known rivers in the United States. I have watched heavy barges being pushed up and down the Missouri River while the brown swirl of the water threatened to swallow the small boat carrying me. I have floated in nothing but a tube down the grand Guadalupe that cuts through the heart of Texas. I have rafted the entire course of the Colorado River from Lee's Ferry Landing to Lake Meade, sleeping under the stars on the sandy banks while listening to bats swoop precariously close to my face and feeling the heart beat of the indigenous people in the earth. These are just a few of the highlights of rivers in my physical life.

Each river has held its own mystery for me...some, cut through high slabs of granite and rock that has blocked out the sun, while others flowed effortlessly through flat, silt bottom channels. But what has always been the common denominator between ALL the rivers I have been on is this: bends. As a matter of fact, there is no river in the WORLD that has a straight course unless it has been altered by humans. And this is because the river's SOURCE is so powerful it cannot be stopped from meeting ITS destination to other rivers, lakes, or oceans. The river simply learns to "bend" around whatever obstacle it encounters, often changing its course over time...but in the will STILL meet its destination.

Often times, we hear people metaphorically speak of "what lies around the bend", but this post is not about that. This post is about the "bend" itself. The obstacle or situation that has caused the river to curve in its constant flow and drive to become one with its destiny.

River "bends" can be caused by large mountains or something as simple as logs cluttering its channel. Logs tend to be easily "bent" around, while mountains require a river to sometimes leap its banks, ripping away rock and soil, in a ferocious display of determination. Each "bend" and flow has its own unique pattern and beauty...sometimes leaving rapids in the "bend" and sometimes creating deep channels. Occasionally a "bend" may also have an extreme widening of the river with calm and effortless water flowing around the obstacle. The river *learns* to contain itself and its flow, cutting the easiest pathway to its destiny. And, as is with all nature, the river never STOPS greeting obstacles in its course due to circumstances such as wind, rain, volcanoes, etc., that are not of the river's control. It is also important (when studying rivers) to keep in mind, obstacles are neither categorized as "good or bad"...some are quite grand, while others hold treachery and threaten to block the water's flow.

My life's *river* has many bends in it as well. Circumstances not within my control have caused my *river* to flow in a winding course on my way to my final destination. People have influenced many "bends" as have common, everyday occurrences. Here are just a few of the "bends" in my river:

1. Watching my mother stop breathing, then bringing her back to life with CPR...only to hold her hand 3 days later and let her go as the life support machines were shut down.

2. A lover's embrace and the safety and security felt when held in loving arms.

3. Being witness to a sunset on the peak of the Airport Vortex in Sedona, AZ, and finding my way off the mountain in the dark, without a light, map, or trail.

4. Being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

5. The death of a sibling.

6. Making the final seconds shot in a championship basketball game.

7. Witnessing a stabbing and having the victim die under my bloodied hands.

8. Bearing witness to my first child birth experience in nursing school, cradling "peanut", then placing her in her mother's arms.

9. Surviving a somewhat brutal childhood and the painful process of self-discovery that followed.

10. Saying "good-bye" to someone, because the pain of staying hurt more than the agony of leaving.

And I wouldn't trade in any of the above experiences because they have made me who I am today...shaping my course...establishing my flow.

What makes up the "bends" in YOUR river? It's a great weekend to recall and remember...


Spaz Attack said...

Very poetic, reflective, well-written piece there Cheese-it. I got the bends now so can' respond

Shauna said...

One of the things we do in the Sackville Rivers Association besides clean ups and fish releases, is helping to restore the natural flow to the rivers in our watershed. As you stated, unless caused by man, a river's flow is naturally winding. When it's straight it can do damage to the landscape and carry away precious soil. Where man has caused problems or sped up erosion, we go in to improve the bends. This also creates pools for fish and other creatures that they need for protection.
Nice post....


Anonymous said...

I was going to say something flippant and snarky about you being philosophical and not swearing even once, then I read your list of life events and decided to respond in a more mature fashion.

I get the whole concept of not changing anything in the past because it all adds up to bringing us where we are (and I am incredibly happy where I am) but there are a few I would be helpless to unchange if I could - the death of my sibling being the main one.

I can't help but think that no matter what wonderful and/or important things have come your way that wouldn't have without the MS, that it would still have been better overall to not have had that bend?

Luckily we don't have to decide what we would change in the past - I suspect most of us would bungle it horribly. And with my luck some nitwit would change something trivial in their past and that would f**K up my destiny.

Yes, today is a good day for remembering.


Joan said...

Linda, sorry it has taken so long to respond. I read this piece and was deeply affected and simply was unable to respond for a while. Your life events are traumatic and powerful and it's impressive that you can share them so freely.

A few years ago, I wrote an essay on the life events that have shaped my beliefs, but don't have the courage to share this with the blogosphere. I will say that my events pale in comparison to yours. They still caused my river to bend, though.

Thanks for writing such a powerful piece.


Zee said...

Great post, Linda. Really got me thinking! Thanks for your insight and vision.

(And no, I have nothing more profound than that to add... :-P How sad am I?)