We made popsicle stick boats the other day...my ten year old and I. They were hot glue gunned together and each came with it's very own bright yellow construction papered sail and a popsicle stick passenger. Mine was Joanna...hers, Chad. They were going to go on a great adventure together, down the creek. But they first had to make it past the waterfall damn we built out of heavy rocks, right around this time last year. It would be a tricky spot to maneuver through, but if all went according to plan, they'd make it past the rocky damn and onto leech beach, appropriately named from past experiences. This is where the current slowed and we could then collect our wooden boats and call it a day. We packed a picnic, slid on our muck boots and carried Chad and Joanna, along with their respective boats, down to the creek. We wished our two new friends luck on their adventure and gently set them in the water, following behind them as they floated in line with the current.
All was going according to plan until we approached the damn we worked so hard to build. It had disappeared...completely gone. No sign of it anywhere except for a few stray rocks. It's disappearance was not the fault of one person, but happened naturally...through the progression of time. Forces bigger than us altered that rocky path and shifted Chad and Joanna's course forever. And because of that, everything coming after, shifted as well. No more watery ups and downs, no more swift current and no more leech beach. But as we followed this new path, my ten year old looked downstream where our boats were headed and said, "you know mama, there is probably something just as good, maybe even better, down by that wise, old Oak tree."
Something even better. By the wise old Oak tree.
That massive, solid tree. I know it well. It overlooks one of the best swimming spots on our land and when times are hard, I find that I gravitate down by the water and to that tree. It knows most of my secrets, along with the secrets of all who have come before me. Many have sat there, under the strong protective branches and have shared their stories, shared their tears, shared their joy. It has stoically sat there, witnessing the many changes over the years to our creek, and seems to silently know that the damn we built out of rocks last year might have seemed strong at the time, but it wasn't. Not even close. It seems to know, from experience, that although going off the course you originally planned for is hard, but it can also be beautiful. That sometimes the unknown of what is ahead might seem scary, but it can be full of incredible pockets of sweetness you didn't even know were possible. That knowing only comes from wisdom and experience and I am fortunate that is has been shared with me over and over again.
Something even better, I hear the wise Oak tree now whispering to me once more.
And I breathe it in...I let it sink into me. Slowly at first. But then this familiar feeling takes over. I have been here before. Many times. And the truth is, I hope I am here again...maybe next year. I hope that things keep changing. That lessons keep coming. That opportunities keep presenting themselves. I hope I keep growing and learning and leaning into people in more transparent ways. I hope I keep building damns, even if I know they are temporary.
You see friends...it wasn't so much the damn itself that brought me happiness, but the experience I had building it. The feelings it created when I would hear the water rushing over the rocks, the way the water felt when it moved fast, the completely different way it looked when I was a part of it. And now that it is gone, I find myself thinking about what it was like, this time last year. If I would have known then that it would no longer exist now, would I have done it? Would I have spent so much time and energy into it? Would I have participated the way I did in how it was built...how it was maintained? Would I have wanted to experience it at all...knowing it was all so temporary?
Something even better, the wind seems to be saying.
Because sometimes these experiences we have are not meant to last, but that doesn't make them not worth having. People come in and out of our lives, bringing gifts to us, and we get to define what those gifts mean. Some of these gifts bring us joy...some heartache. Some gifts bring darkness and anger...some grace and ease. And even others...freedom. Freedom that didn't look anything like what we thought it would. Freedom to explore who we really are and not who you wanted us to become. Freedom to love others in ways I never new existed. Freedom to be loved in ways you couldn't offer...and for that gift...I am grateful.
I imagine you have some very similar gifts.
I imagine if you looked in the rear view mirror for just a moment, you will find them. The same gifts of freedom that I have found. Ones that seemed really painful at first. Ones that you weren't sure if you could go on painful gifts. You know the ones I am talking about. And if you don't, no worries...they are headed your way. No one gets out of this without these wonderful opportunities disguised as heartbreak and loss. No one.
Something better, she says. Only this time, it's the ten year old.
I look up as she runs and splashes through the creek, pointing towards the wise old Oak tree. "Mama, look! I knew it! I knew we would find something better!" And I see it. I see what she sees. A new sandy beach...with a collection of some of the most beautiful rocks right under our favorite tree. It seems almost perfect, almost ironic, that destruction and beauty can go hand in hand...that one can lead to another so gracefully. So this is where we pause. We collect our wet popsicle boats and frazzled friends, stack our new rocks, spread out our picnic blanket and lean against the strong wise tree to dream up a new journey...and possibly start building a new damn.
And this one will definitely be something even better.
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