Bend-in-the-River: A Sequel to '49 And I Ain't Budging'

1 | 2 | 3

back to main Articles page

HummingbirdLike most things, though, this particular cloud has a silver lining for aging also brings an increased ability to tolerate and forgive our shortcomings. Aging tends to provide the objectivity that enables us to look at ourselves with compassion in much the same way we might view a friend in similar circumstances. Surprisingly, the increased self-acceptance has also meant that I don't say or do nearly as many things that I later regret. One of life's great ironies is that the more we genuinely forgive and accept ourselves, the less we behave in ways that need forgiving.

There's an additional wonderfully delicious offshoot to all of this. If I no longer have to be perfect and also, if I genuinely can and do forgive myself for times when I'm not, it frees me up to risk more — to dance with passion and abandon even when I don't know the steps; to paint bolder and sing louder, even when the colors clash and the melodies are off key.

The Transition

Two days ago, when we first arrived at the cabin, I walked down to the river and picked up some river rocks — no particular number or kind, just the ones that spoke to me. As it turned out, there were 4 — one larger and 3 smaller. The larger one was a delightful old thing — just the right size and shape to fit in the palm of my hand when I picked it up. Today, following some inner urge, I assembled the 3 smaller rocks, walked down to the river, placed the rocks safely on the shore, removed my shoes, then waded to the center of the river and sat down. The clear, cold water swirling around me wasn't high enough to suit me, so I scooped up handfuls of water and poured it over me. Finally satisfied, I began reaching through the water and picking up rocks around me — skipping some across the top of the water, putting others back where I found them, and arranging a few select ones on a larger, half-submerged rock nearby.

When I tired of this, I waded back to the shore to retrieve the 3 rocks I had brought with me from the cabin. I had known from the outset that they would need to be returned to the river before we left. As I picked them up and headed back out to my spot in the middle of the river, I wondered whether I had absentmindedly chosen 3 additional rocks to place on the half-submerged rock in the center. This afternoon's experience with the river, which seemed to be some kind of mysterious culmination of the entire weekend, had been so strongly driven by my unconscious, that it seemed likely. I was a little disappointed when I got back to the middle and saw that there were 4 rocks there, not 3. It made me doubt. Doubt me? My unconscious? The universe? My ability to be guided by my unconscious/the universe? Before I could figure it out, I was struck by what I saw — what had actually happened. For on the large, half-submerged river rock, there were now 7 smaller rocks — the 3 original ones, and 4 newer ones. Seven. For years, I've known that both the numbers 3 and 7 were important in my life. I've had dozens of mysterious, yet compelling dreams with one or both of those numbers in them. So what I had unconsciously chosen were "3" original rocks, then enough more to make "7." It was complete.

Back Next