The river changed a lot theses last few weeks due to many strong rainfalls and as so often I find lessons for my own life in the changes of nature.
"Be like me and don't be afraid of change", roars the thunderous river.
It rained. Many days without stopping. But I'm still drawn to leave the house. The river calls me, as always. I worry about her. Is she doing well? Is she braving the storm? The river and I, we are connected to each other, the water has become my greatest teacher, my temple.
I put on my rain coat, take my colorful umbrella and step outside into the pouring rain. It only takes a few minutes and I reach the edge of the village. I almost start running. Over the fields into the woods. I can hear her from afar. Before I can even make out the raging waters, an unbelievable noise reaches my ears that takes hold of my entire body. Every one of my cells seems to start vibrating with this force of nature.
And then I see the water. With an incredible force it plunges from the rocks into the valley. It is brown, wild and unrecognizable. As if they have a life of their own my feet stop, my mouth opens and my hands clasp my heart. I'm in awe. The mountain stream that usually is so serene and gentle, that I frequent almost every day, that has become my sanctuary and always welcomes me with open arms, has transformed into a torrential and violent river.
In the village there are still stories been told about this river that not only destroyed the mill outside the village many, many years ago, but that also seemingly caused a few people to die in its current. Somehow unimaginable seeing the river day after day. Of course there is a small current and I can notice the water's force, but you wouldn't really put destructiveness past this beautiful river.
But now that I'm standing on the bridge, I can't bear to stay here any longer. The power, the energy of the water is so strong that all of a sudden I can very well imagine those stories. Suddenly I'm in a hurry. I want to leave as fast as possible. My head is pulsating and I can feel a strange nervousness forming inside of me. I cover some distance before I can calm myself. Nature never ceases to impress me. This time in her forcefulness.
During the next few days I still can't resist the urge. The river calls me. I feel the need to take care of her and so I visit my various bathing spots from a safe distance. The rain has fallen silent, but the water is still raging. I can see that the river's course has completely changed. It's partly unrecognizable. Gigantic tree trunks lie in the stream bed. Rocks, that I know from further upwards, have journeyed an impressive amount further down the valley and where there used to be some sort of little beach, water is flowing now and instead other parts have become baren. I can only stand here in the beginning. A quiet observer of this metamorphosis. My thoughts are whirling like the waves of my river friend. And then, after the waters have calmed enough, I finally step into the stream again. Everything is new, although we have known each other for years. My feet don't know where to step anymore and only now do I notice how much I relied on them, who knew every stone in my old bathing routine. I feel clumsy, I stumble and I have to hold on to something. It's exciting like the first time I dipped my body into the stream. Back then it also felt so new, but still familiar, almost as if we had shared a secret that we already knew.
My usual bathing spots don't exist anymore. Everything is different, everything changed and my feet and I have to get used to that. Somehow I'm sad, because I love that river so much. She feels familiar to me and every time I take a bath in her something in me heals. And even though I know that our time together is far from over and I'm merely getting to know a new facet of her, I feel wistful to leave the well-known.
After this first bath I place myself on the bridge for a while, my legs dangling over the edge and my gaze grazing over the new river bed. The water blinks at me, it dances and sings. "Be like me and don't be afraid of change", the river calls toward me. I smile because I feel caught. Change scares me, especially the letting go part that is unavoidable with change. Once again nature shows me how it goes: She doesn't fear change, doesn't fear the chaos that comes with change. The river feels chaotic. Everywhere lies wood, the stones and rocks are still loose and wobbly when you step on them and the water can still be a bit murky from all the sand that the enormous volumes of water have swirled up. But nature doesn't resist it. She follows the flow, allows the change because she knows that nothing lasts forever. Because she knows that something else and new may rise from change. A quote comes to mind that the Greek philosopher Heraclit has said thousands of years ago:
The only constant in the universe is change.
Probably he was right. Everything is in constant change. The seasons change the costumes of the trees, the moon moves in a constant dance of waxing and waning, our bodies renew their cells again and again, my hair is getting grey, my visions and dreams become different. Everything flows, whether I like it or not. I cannot keep it from doing so. But I can decide if I want to resist it and therefor be in danger of snapping in half like the twig that resists the floods. Or if I want to follow the flow of life and find my place a bit further downstream.
Ever since the storm a few weeks have passed. My feet have gotten used to the new order of the rocks and the new bathing spots quite quickly. The way the river once was has become a mere memory. The new normal often comes faster than we think when we stand on the cusp of change. Isn't it strange how change evokes fear in us although it is inevitable and happening on a daily basis? Although we wouldn't be exactly here, in this place, in this moment, in this life without change? I'm practicing to be more like the river: to not be afraid of the chaos of change and to just devote myself to the flow of life. The emphasis hereby lies on practicing, because change still doesn't come easy to me.