This weekend I sat by a river. I fell asleep to the sound of crickets and falling water. And a frog or two. Mustn’t forget the frogs.
My arrival was frenzied. After a late departure, I rushed to be sure that I could hike most, if not all, of the trail while there was still light. I had been warned that wayfinding was difficult, the entrance to the trail eroded, the end of it a rock scramble. My mind was cluttered with internal chatter about being careful not to re-injure myself, particularly carrying a heavy pack. I was aware that I preferred this chatter to the heavy emotional weight I felt in reaction to some rough news earlier in the week.
The hike was a bit over an hour long, particularly at my cautious pace. I started in twilight and ended in the dark. As I descended from the dirt road above to the rushing river below, I felt figurative weights drop off of me even as the literal weight of my pack seemed to increase with time. About halfway through my solitary journey I reminded myself to look up from the path and take in my surroundings. And that’s when I remembered: This is what restores me. Here I feel connected. I can sink into my body and smell the earth and damp and feel a smile that starts at my toes and spreads upwards.
I dropped my pack on a huge boulder just above the river. By the light of my headlamp, I finished the scramble to the waters edge. My friends – now found – pointed out the deep waters of the swimming hole. I shed my clothes and dove into the icy snowmelt-fed pool and felt ALIVE.
That night we danced in the starlight atop boulders as the water rushed around us. We chatted quietly, nibbled fruit, massaged shoulders, stretched out on rocks to watch falling stars. Late late, after the moon had finally made its appearance, I crawled into my sleeping bag, letting my muscles fully relax for the first time that day.
And I remembered to pause. To still my thoughts. To drink in the fullness of that moment. To hear and smell and see and feel everything that was right around me.
And now I write about it to remember to do this when I’m not surrounded by trees and rivers and rocks. That I need to pause, to drink in my life in every moment, to be in my body and in the world as much as I can be wherever I am.