A drought has altered the course of the daily round. We’ve had no measurable rain for weeks. The grass has retreated to brown dormancy and the river is diminished to a shallow, narrow stream flowing around islands and sandbars.

The temperatures have risen to the mid-90’s during the day and linger in the upper 70’s at night.

We wake early to water the gardens, just enough to keep the vegetables and flowers alive and the birdbaths cool, clean, and full. The lawn crunches underfoot and high hot winds from the south and southwest blow the dust of the dead everywhere. Moisture’s life is short these days.

Life takes on a kind of dreaminess, all the sharp edges soften; energy is conserved and afternoon naps overtake us rather than offering us the possibility of accepting or declining their invitation. Sentences are begun and then linger in the air; pauses breathe through them and conclusions may or may not transpire.

It doesn’t seem to matter.

I walked to the bridge early this morning and observed the river life community adjusting to its receding environment. I noticed a carp roll near the shoreline, its usual bravado intact, until it ran aground upon a sandbar now risen above the waterline, and found itself high and dry, surprised by utter aridity. It flipped its way back into the river, the energy of relief propelling it safely to deeper water.

Several kinds of turtles live in the river; today, I watched a young Eastern spiny softshell male try to conceal itself among rocks. Unfortunately, the shallow water allowed the polka dots on its shell to remain fairly vivid. It dug deeper into the mud and eventually disappeared under a cloud of riverbed.

A larger turtle I couldn’t identify seemed surprised to discover itself exposed where formerly it had felt safe. It struggled to navigate over and around rock deposits it’s been accustomed to comfortably swimming above, encountered a sandbar, and finally swam towards the safe deep channel at the center of the river and submerged.

Four years ago, to the day, yellow police tape closed the bridge to bike and pedestrian traffic, due to the flood-mad local rivers overflowing all their borders and boundaries. People boated down the main streets of a neighboring town, left or lost their homes, re-routed their driving—if they could drive at all—and wondered at the power of a real and present earth they had barely noticed or counted as a living force, given the busy and important routines of their daily lives. The idea that their clothing, televisions and Lazy-Boy chairs would be carried away by the river left them speechless and confused, at least for a time.

Things change. Balance is all.

I thought about the dry seasons of my own life, when grief, loss, or a challenging transition left me unmoored and separated from the fluid source that normally waters my spirit. At such times the sacred has no meaning and rituals are empty of blessing. There’s no sense of solace, and words like “faith” and “trust” taste tinny and bloodless.

The river life reminded me again that Spirit’s channel runs deep within, true and always.

Life’s rocks and sandbars can be navigated and droughts survived; new meaning and story can emerge and transformation can be realized in its own time, if I live from the deep peace at the center of my spirit.


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