Take your busy heart to the art museum and the
chamber of commerce
but take it also to the forest.
The song you heard singing in the leaf when you
were a child
is singing still.
-From “What Can I Say” by Mary Oliver
This evening, at what should have been supper time, I felt called down to the river.
I stifled the urge for a few minutes, knowing there was laundry to be folded, lunch dishes piled beside the sink, books scattered across the dining room table from the day’s lessons.
But the murmur of the river is persistent. It drowns out the beep of the answering machine and the swoosh of the washing machine and the buzz of the neighbor’s weed whacker.
I stepped onto the dirt trail with my bare feet — chose my path carefully so as not to step on sharp sticks or rocks.
Arriving at my favorite spot, the spot where the afternoon sunlight turns late-summer leaves to the brightest yellow-green, I glanced up and down the river.
Upstream, the water slows into a gentle pool, our favorite swimming and crayfish-catching hole on steamy July days. Downstream, the banks narrow and the water picks up speed over small, rounded rocks, turning foamy and white before disappearing around the bend.
I tipped my face to the pale sky, inhaled all the way into my belly, and pressed my feet into the large rock on which I always stand. Its surface was still warm from the sun.
I exhaled long and low, thinking I may have been releasing my first true breath of the day — with it, a quiet Thank you.
The sudden crack of a stick and turbulence of wings pulled my eyes north as a bald eagle swooped down from the birches, slapped the water’s surface, and emerged with a squirming fish. Pulling his wings back and forth with powerful sweeping motions, he lifted over my head, through the river corridor and out of sight.
I held my breath, now, replaying the scene over and over, looking north and south as though I might see him again. But he was gone. Gone with his dinner. Gone to his nest or his tree or wherever eagles go with an evening catch.
It came to me, then, that I had nearly missed it. All of it. The river. The sun-warmed rocks beneath my feet. The regal creature in his act of living.
I had nearly missed it for laundry, dishes, and shelving books.
These last few weeks have marked the beginning of fall rhythms for our family – the return of weekly activities and meal plans and tightly-scheduled calendar squares. I’ve welcomed the consistency as I always do after a stretch of here-and-there weeks. I’ve shifted back into organized mom mode, cook mode, teacher mode — busy, busy, busy mode.
But I don’t want to forget, in all of that routine and motion and general busy-ness, that this time of year is truly the best time.
The bright, clear seventy-five degree days.
The smell of the furnace the first time it fires up on a cool September night.
The feel of a broken-in hoodie on the back of my suntanned neck.
Yes, I welcome the new season and its wonderful rhythms — but in those rhythms I hope I still have eyes for eagles and asters and the perfect-temperature water between my toes. I hope I’ll remember to close the date book now and then so I can say yes to good things like breath and sunshine and the murmuring call of a slow autumn river.
Read more Personal Essay here –>
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