Pines sway overhead; an array of brown leaves with more pinholes than a piano roll scatter the trail below; and, all this is tucked in by a clouded sky. Frays from a surreal year seem less awkward as my sons and I walk along a stream trail in George Washington National Forest. Here, life's shards seem less sharp. Here, isolation draws you closer to what feels more real and less sensationalized. Here, nature's tangible touches soothe heartstrings that feel as swollen as lymph nodes fighting infection.
We didn't have a destination, just a desire to amble where mountain laurels live and boulders mottled with lichen settle contently. The lack of expectation, of contention, of busyness - the presence of just being and breathing and moving forward are what draw me again and again to this place. To this quiescence.
Pausing near the river's edge, my sons found sticks and began to draw their tips through the mirroring water. Immediately etched lines rove into undulating circles and swaths of mini-waves that overlapped like collage art. I imagine felt hatters would have been as satisfied with the sheen of mercury, once, as I was with watching the creation and transformation of such line art across the silver stream's skin.
It reminds me of my mistakes. So poignant and glaring when they happen, over time mistakes soften into transforming textures that define the nature of who I am, of who we are as human beings: resilient and malleable, too. These aren't limitations or boundaries; they are creative opportunities for accepting ourselves and discovering ourselves at the same time. They are the slip of water over a streambed. Water that can dimple and dive and eddy. And yet, can also become a serene pool.
American author, Bell Hooks wrote, “For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?” Her words are like river water, too. When we embrace ourselves and others through these lenses of compassion and forgiveness, we open a trail of hope and possibility. Instead of projecting our fear and insecurity onto others, we can accept them, don our hiking shoes, and begin a journey together.
So, friend, do you want to walk with me where silver water slips by the stream trail and allow the scent of pine to soothe?
SENK, an artist and writer in the Shenandoah Valley, savors moments contemplating life's intricate beauty.