Think of it like a river. (I know, it’s my go-to metaphor, but bear with me.) Like life, the currents in a river are constant and steady and timeless, made up of simple forces of nature. In a river it is an act combining coalescing water molecules, gravity, and topography, acting together in a dynamic choreography. At the same time, the formula is ever-changing, responding to obstacles, weather, season, the ponderous interplay of natural forces punctuated by occasional dramatic events like a flash flood. Constant, yet dynamic, like life.
Our move to Butte a few months ago was akin to a flash flood washing debris down a side canyon, depositing boulders in the main stem of river and creating a new rapid. The flow of water adapts, feels its way through the new obstacles, finding paths, damming, momentarily checked, moving things, making noise, and setting off ripple effects, new fluvial dynamics, felt up and downstream.
As with our move, the river persists, largely unchanged, and yet, in subtle ways, in new patterns, in tremors felt throughout the watershed, it is fundamentally altered. That constancy, with variations, is what makes moving current so mesmerizing, so fascinating, so engaging and surprising and refreshing, and also so tricky and deceptive. It has a way of keeping you awake.
Ever since August, when the flash flood event of our recent lives roared down the side canyon, we’ve been adapting and establishing those new patterns. Many of the old ways remain unchanged – our family connections, our partnership, our shared ambitions, all the things we brought with us. But the ripple effects of that move keep playing out, emerging to surprise and challenge and confront us. Like new boulders to work around, we feel our way into the contours of this new life.
Each morning, in the winter pre-dawn darkness, we settle into the sunroom facing south, hot mugs of coffee warming our hands, and greet the day as the sun rises over the East Ridge. Every day at breakfast I randomly pick a poem to read – Mary Oliver reminds me to pay attention, or Billy Collins chides me not to take things too seriously, or W.S. Merwin offers something both inscrutable and insistent, or Robert Frost chimes in with a time-tested nugget of wisdom. We mold ourselves into the contours of our new home, letting it dictate its terms while we assert ours, finding favorite spots, the warm pocket by the heater on the landing, the sun-washed afternoon napping chair, the view over town, the way winds flap the exhaust fan in the upstairs bathroom. We reach out toward trailheads, ski hills, new rivers, find our resources and friendships. The neighbor we buy a car from. The guy across the street I just met, both of us leaning on our snow shovels in a welcome respite from the labor of 6″ of overnight snow. The couple with matching appetites for outdoor adventure who take us to their secret spots. The new slate of radio programs, the budding community food co-op, yoga classes, the favorite bakery and coffee shop, the neighborhood birds coming to our feeders – resident flicker and downy woodpecker, bright chickadees, throngs of house sparrows.
All of it so familiar. All the same forces at work on our lives, and yet, so altered. And, like the new rapid on a river, we approach with trepidation and excitement in equal measure. What will we find? How will it challenge us? Will we stay upright and dry, or learn our lessons the hard way?
The river, and life, rolls on, carrying us, waking us up, bringing us joy and challenge and the simple daily interactions that are inevitable, predictable, surprising, all of it worth facing each day to see where the new flow will bring us around the next bend.