I go down to the river as I have so often gone, for years, seeking solace, confused and hungry for insight, or just hot and sweaty, wanting a cold plunge into the deep pool. I sit and stare and wait for quiet to descend. It isn’t prayer in the “now I lay me down to sleep” tradition because I know no one to pray to except maybe the universe itself, and that at the moment seems too immense to call upon. The quiet itself will do.
It is the end of summer. Seed pods rattle or hang empty swaying in the breeze. Rusty colored leaves from the alder already are lining the ground and blond grasses bend and droop in the small path leading to the water. The false solomon seal, the poison oak, the berries are all dusty and tinged with yellow and red. It is the ragtag end of summer mirroring this ragtag end stage of my life. If the leaves of the oaks are slightly curled and stiff with age or worm chewed, or damaged with leaf spot, so my body has missing parts, is stiff with age, functions more slowly and with less vigor. This is just the way of life on this planet. We deal with it as we can.
When I was young I used to feel this time of year was so sad, the end of summer meant back to school, to routine and to letting go of the wild free spontaneous life surging forth all around me. But at this age, I realize it is not sad at all; it is sublimely peaceful. A person just has to be quiet enough to notice. All that can be, has been accomplished. The push for sun, for food, for water is finished now and one leaf need no more crowd another. The plant world gives us this lesson every year which we in our culture so little heed. Nothing more needs to be done. It is a time to stop striving and to let many things fall away—time to watch the water flow and see a leaf fall. It is possible to sit for a long time in this stillness.
Whether this particular body, sitting here today, will feel the wild spontaneous surge of life come forth this spring is a mystery. This thought floats over the deep peace I feel just as the river’s slow current glides over the deep pools where the salmon lie, waiting the fall rains which will take them back to where they came from. The depths are not disturbed. This too is a mystery. I am here, alive, in the superb and magic stillness of summer’s evening. I bask in the still warm sun.
And I know that once the world’s hurly burly overtakes me, as it will, I will forget the stillness which is always present. I write so that if I am too feeble to get to the river, I may at least get to the words.