Time is apparently a liquid, like water, lava, traffic and emotions. So much is fluid in this world that all of life seems to follow the habits of water to some degree. When water is a primary basis of life, why should that surprise me? Maybe it’s so obvious that it’s sometimes difficult to notice, like it’s difficult to notice air until there suddenly isn’t enough to breathe.
Every summer when the Oregon rivers run low, their clarity reveals the character of stones that have spent another year hidden under the currents, being shaped by them, moved along by forces far greater than their resistance. As the waters calm, the stones’ appearance is revealed yet altered by the ripples above them.
I return to celebrate the currents, ripples and river stones every summer. Ritual is part of making celebration a habit for me, and river ritual is key. I find it especially important in a difficult year, when I most I need the perspective of river stones to restore me. I know that to celebrate their beauty will get me beyond myself, and also back within myself in a better way.
I always seek out the waters of Brice Creek, along a favorite Oregon trail. I see again how the roughness of the current creates the smoothness of the stones. I recall how it’s the same in my life: how the challenges of the roughest patches sand my edges into grace, if I embrace the currents without complaint as the stones do. I also see how even the slightest ripples change the appearance of the stones to others: how I can’t see the stone in the same way that the stone exists alone, through even the clearest water. I recall that this is how I see others, and how others see me.
It’s humbling, that life’s currents are greater than my own strength; that even in moments of clarity, I’ll never accurately see the ones around me. They’ll also never accurately see me.
Yet this offers solace when I notice that it doesn’t diminish beauty, within the river or within ourselves. In fact, it often adds to it. I love the appearance of the stones through the ripples, even when the ripples bend the light until I can barely tell it’s a stone in the patterns. I celebrate that I don’t need to accurately know every facet of a beautiful friend, to know they are beautiful.
Though the greater currents have taken me places I’d never have chosen to go, they’ve given me great gifts of experience I would’ve missed otherwise. I surrender to that, because the currents often have a better idea of where I’m supposed to be than my conscious planning mind does. The currents of life best know the gifts I’m here to give. Some of my deepest nightmares have awakened me to the most beautiful mornings. Some of my deepest flaws have led me to develop my greatest gifts.
I’ve seen parallel experiences manifest in so many around me, as we all tumble through the liquid currents of time and challenge. I pray that we can forgive each other our rough cutting edges as we grind against each other; as the currents wear us down into smoothness; as the ripples distort our vision of who we think each other are.
I remember again the great beauty found under currents and ripples. I walk back from the creek ready to release my resistance, grateful once more for all I did not wish to choose.