Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Going with the Flow on the River Jordan

Last week Daniel and I took a three-night mini-vacation in the northern Galilee. The August heat being what it is in the Holy Land, we concentrated our daytime activities around water: On the way up we stopped to swim in the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee); another day we sat first under a waterfall and, later, in a bubbling natural spring surrounded by fig trees.

Best, for me, was
when we spent about an hour and a half kayaking down the Jordan. Besides being extremely fun, our downstream ride reinforced one of life’s most important lessons: Many of our most intense experiences are kindest to us when we let go and let them take us where they will.

In the place we started, very near the Lebanon border, the Jordan is quite lively even in the summer, many months after the last rains. The water splashes its way swiftly down over rocks and, at one point, a mini-waterfall, tossing and literally turning any object it’s carrying along. Daniel and I had our hands full, paddling and trying to keep the kayak facing forward.

I know Daniel is smiling here and I’m not, but my grimace doesn’t really mean anything other than the sun in my eyes – I really was having a great time. But there’s no mistaking the tension in my hands and arms as I grip the paddle (yes, I know, in the wrong place), doing my best to steer.

Even when the water calmed down, it was all we could do to keep our kayak straight and more or less centered. In fact, it was a losing battle. The water continually brought us to one riverbank, then the other, then back again. Every time we bumped into a rock, a tree trunk, or another kayak – or simply when the current felt like playing with us – our vessel spun around and sent us on our way facing backward – or sideways! – and we’d scramble once again to straighten ourselves.

After about a quarter of an hour of constant effort, I had an epiphany. I turned to Daniel and said, “Why don’t we just see what happens if we stop paddling?” He immediately agreed – and the trip took on a completely new quality.

We lay back, put our feet up, and surrendered to the River Jordan:

Sunlight sparkling on water below and on trees above, alternating with rippling shadow.

Cold splashes on our sun-warmed skin.

Water rushing, treetops whispering, birds conversing, children laughing.

A black-and-white-striped kingfisher darting out and hovering very close to us for a few seconds before disappearing back into the thick foliage.

A buoyancy, a rocking, gentle to the point where it seemed I might fall asleep when the water slowed down, and vigorous enough to get my blood flowing as exuberantly as the river itself when it sped up.

Letting my mind drift here and there, in and out of the physical world.

Truly knowing that there was nowhere I needed to be right then except where I was, in that place, in that moment.

Best of all, time stretched. Doing nothing to actively move ourselves forward, we spent as long on the river as its own pace would allow, which – inevitably – felt much too short.

The Jordan is not deep, and it’s far from wide. But it does offer milk and honey – though not “on the other side,” as a place to be attained, a goal to be reached. The river’s sweetness, for me at least, is in its process – its essence, its very flow.

To be embraced, borne, rocked, and gently taught by the River Jordan – now, that is a true privilege.

1 comment:

riv said...

I just read your blog and the story of your daughter's struggle with leukemia.I am so sorry for yur loss and amazed at your resilience.
I am coming to Israel for a visit and would love to see you again.