Summer is often a time of respite and relaxation, a break from the busyness of the rest of the year. Sometimes it's just too hot and humid to do much of anything. I have some very sweet sweaty memories of summer women's softball league back east many years ago; nine softball fields all going at the same time, all day long on Sunday, in the sticky humidity. You just prayed for a Friday night game instead so the temperature would be more bearable, as in under 90 degrees. Just reminiscing about it makes me smile.
This summer has been a period of refection and transformation, both of which are fabulous once you get through the transition period. But before you get there, it feels like the riverbed of one's soul is being stirred up. Cloudy, murky, unsettled. Lots of stuff floating and moving under the surface, unpredictable pockets of hot and cold. Remembering there are places where the current is strong and relentless, and the water is deep. Remembering to breathe.
The river metaphor is particularly dear to me because I am reminded of the first time I went whitewater rafting. I was initially scared, grumpy and uncooperative. I was afraid I wouldn't be strong enough, or fast enough, or ….some unpredictable embarrassment might occur. Fortunately we had a fabulous river guide with a riotous sense of humor; she'd been a guide for many years, and she knew exactly what to say to reassure everyone. Rafting was like a team sport, and all of us in the raft needed to find a shared rhythm with each other and with the river itself. We needed to position ourselves based on our strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly, it wasn't about being better or faster than anyone else.
It was about the journey itself.
Key points along the route had ominous names like Satan's Cesspool, Meatgrinder and Troublemaker! Eventually I found my rhythm, and reminded myself that this guide was reliable, experienced and kind. Every one of us in the raft really needed to depend on each other despite our stubborn insistence on self reliance. Plus our guide encouraged us to scream, sing and laugh along the way.
This summer has been a rafting trip for the soul, and I am profoundly grateful for that, as there have been rapids along the way that have made my heart race and my hands sweat. I couldn't manage this river by myself, and I wouldn't want to. I love sharing the beauty of the trees and the sounds of the wind and the river current. I can paddle when they get tired and vice versa. When we've made it through a particularly challenging rapid, around the curve to find ourselves in a tranquil moment, it is so much more satisfying to enjoy it together, even if we are not saying a word.
And having a trustworthy guide makes all the difference in the world. I wouldn't have missed this ride for anything.
Take me to the river
and wash me down
Won't you cleanse my soul
put my feet on the ground
–Al Green, from "Take Me to the River"