You could sense in the air that summer had settled in and the light breeze felt at home for at least the time being. In the valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains, we relax after a day’s hike. The smoke and smell of charcoal grills invites itself into our back yard which raises the anticipation of when we will light our own. The sun also relaxed and sat lower in the sky turning the river into a stream of gold. To seek this gold, I stray away from the group to get some quiet. I find myself needing to do this more often these days—to find something greater than myself in nature and in my nature; to seek a silence in the world around me so that the sounds of what’s true have more room to echo.
The Shenandoah River winds for miles and miles, meandering through the valley in seek of something. The river is neither deep nor wide but flows with a constant current. So I can become friends with the Shenandoah, I pull the canoe out of the shed. The boat is heavy and sturdy. It bears the scuffs and gouges, scars and scrapes of adventure yet holds stoic to the miles it has counted. The yoke firmly hugs my shoulders with anticipation during the short walk to the river bank. That boat isn’t happy when waiting in the shed. Only when the lick of the river splashes against its bow and when it dutifully keeps someone afloat of the rocky depths of a river’s mystery is it satisfied. When it becomes the vehicle of adventure for someone’s body or mind it is truly content.
I wander with and against the river for some time which I lose track of. The current is enough that traveling upstream slows my pace. This way, the gold flowed toward me but the source stayed ever distant only lowering itself to the horizon to make me aware of its impermanence. The shadow of this steed and its rider galloped slowly down the waves of the river as the sun’s retreat made long the light it cast. An eddy became a haven for my boat and my soul to sit in quietude away from the downstream progression.
This solitude and this respite, in a place where currents oppose and cancel each other to create a calm pool, gives me a place to sit and get to know the river. I gaze beyond the gunnel and fixate on the shapes and motion of what lies in the waters below. The evening sun lights the shallow waters and my stare begins to go beyond what I can see.
The force of flowing water is great. A river’s strength is sometimes gauged by the volume of water passing through it each day but a small river can be strong. A strong river flows with persistence. With persistence and direction a river’s carving is relentless. The life blood seeks a vein to travel and it is determined to arrive there. It wears through stone because of a continual drive directed by a gravity.
It is methodical.
I believe that there are truths in the places around us; that the way the earth behaves in the forests and rivers when no one is watching holds lessons. It takes adventure to discover these lessons and they can only be realized with some effort. Truths are in front of us but they are content to wait for the people who chose to seek them out. I found truth waiting in that flow of gold.
It’s a truth that in a persistent, relentless, methodical way we can carve our place in life. Through a method we can become driven to be someone greater. In the way that our mind becomes like water—shaping itself in the form of the container, the situation it is in, and reacting adequately by splashing no larger than the rock which is thrown—we should live with a force like water.
This method is a slow wearing away at the greater problem. It’s continuous. In finding a gravity we become consumed by that direction and seek it out in all we do. We can’t be discontented by how the problem rock stands strong. We must approach with a hardiness to take pieces at a time; to smooth it over with a focused, enduring flow. With time and a solid gravity the rock will begin to shape to our design. As our constant force moves and shapes the rocks we must address and adjust our force in a new way because our journey deeper downstream will have bigger and tougher rocks. With our water-like flow and method we will carve those too.
Persistence without method is misdirected. Method without persisting towards a right gravity is wasteful. And with a greater perspective on the change force we hold, we become steadfast by method.