time and the river

Listen: this is a story about time running forwards and backwards like a river when the currents are pushed upstream away from the sea, when the fish hold to their course carried closer to where they had begun.

This is a story about flying forwards in time, about two days spent in airports and in cramped airplane seats watching sixteen hours of bad movies. This is a story about time and the changes it has brought to the daughter I hadn’t seen in five years who was the seed that grew in me 34 years ago and now has grown into the woman who is herself mated and rooted in a faraway land that I had to travel forward to see again.

This is the story of the old woman who appeared and then disappeared and then appeared again in the kitchen in the early morning with the big windows looking out onto the fog, drifting like cobwebs, covering then revealing the mountain on the far side of the meadow.

Who are you? I asked. What do you want?

I am who I have always been, she said quietly. I have been called to help you through this time of change.

I did not need to ask what was changing. My child had changed into a woman into an eagle into a wild spirit roaming her farm swimming in fast running waters. My child had moved backwards and disappeared into the fog of memory and forward into a land I could not inhabit.

This is the story of the old woman who stood next to me as I made my way tentatively over uneven terrain, hesitant, the first time aware of the fragility of my bones.

Sit, she said, and contemplate what comes next, where the river will take you if you let go. If you let the river cool your fevers of desire and attachment, sit and see what will be left.

What are you losing? she asked me. What parts of yourself no longer serve you as you allow this transformation to work itself through and upon you? What is dying and what is being born and can you see in the dark? Can you trust the chrysalis to dissolve you into nothingness and emerge with fresh wings back into the light?

I was a maiden yearning for a child to fill my belly, then mother with milky abundance, now a woman blessing a child who has grown up and out beyond my following. I am an aging woman cutting the cord, letting go and letting the river take me back upstream a salmon a dolphin a turtle finding the sand of home and resting, finally resting, drifting out on a moonless night onto dark waters, stripped down to my skin, phosphorescing under the endless bright stars, letting the current drag something new from the shells and discarded skins left behind.

This is the story of how I traveled forward in time to collect all the pieces of myself waiting in a faraway country, the ones that produced a child who is no longer a child, my child, anyone’s child except the Mother’s child, the story of how I let go and let the river carry me forward past curves and over currents into rapids onto stretches of clear calm blue.

You will be ripped apart and reassembled, she said. Destroyed and made whole again by loss and illness, death and despair, grief as deep and pure as a bottomless well. You will be brought to your knees by distance from your beloveds, by the helplessness of watching loved ones suffer. You will be struck mute by the cruelty in the world and raised up stronger by your outrage.

Don’t waste your pain, she said.

If we allow our hearts to break and break again, she said, we grow strong in compassion, for ourselves, our beloved, the beloveds we do not know across the world. If we open and open again to the unpredictable horrible beautiful mess of it, the threads connecting us deep into the best of ourselves will weave us back into the world as the river flows backwards into our memories where we hold those we have lost tenderly like a hummingbird egg, where we cherish what once was as time and the river move us forward into the unknown, where change is another name for loss and where we are sustained by the steady never changing power of love.

Listen: this is the story of the river that washes us clean of any backwards notion of the shame we have carried this long, this far, that turns our demons into art, our shadow into friend, then moves us forward, free of any doubt that we are gifted, that what we say matters, that we are loved by spirit beyond our understanding, that it is safe, it is time in this time of change, to reclaim our lives with both hands, redeem our right to shine, to share our love with a full heart, a sorrowing and joyful heart, a heart that yearns to be of service to a broken world.

4 thoughts on “time and the river

  1. Dear Nancy, welcome home to the now. I too made it back, fine but not unscathed. Enjoyed the journey and now swimming upstream.


  2. I enjoyed reading your essay, which had insight, a sense of drama and poetic metaphor. (My interpretation…) For example the river, a metaphor for past, present and change; that slide back and forth between memory and now, added vividness to your writing as well as feeling and understanding. Your conclusion shared the insight: change, acceptance and, ultimately, service….that and love is really what we are all about!


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