This exercise by Susan Dayley totally blew me away.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow, /I feel my fate in what I cannot fear./ I learn by going where I have to go.
I read my friend’s account of a trip through the Grand Canyon—the river, the raft, the muddy waters, the towering canyon walls, the strip of sky far above, and the hikes up adjacent canyons to grottos and waterfalls.
I’ve never been down that portion of the Colorado River. Actually, my ½ day float trip hardly qualifies compared to the two week trip he’d taken. How does one do that? Leave life behind, climb into a raft with strangers and friends, and enter the river?
His experiences changed his life: the rapids, the laughter, the campsites with snakes, and the evening drifting with the flow when stars began to emerge overhead and a wooden flute played the haunting music of the people who live among the red walls of the Canyon.
His record of his experiences changed mine. I fell to sleep, on a raft, drifting to the piped tune of a flute.
Another time, another place, I chose to enter the river of my life, and accept the flow of experiences, the boulders of challenges, and the music of blessed relationships. Was I frightened? Or did the unknown tingle up my spine as it often does when I set out on an adventure I’ve improvised to imitate reality.
Like when I hiked the Subway. I learned a lot about my relationship with my husband on that trip. He was there to help me at the bottom of the first rappel. At the slot swim, he went ahead and waited at the choke stone mid point. Another man in our group gave me a launch, and my husband reached out to rescue me. Did I mention I can’t swim? The water was deep and dark with slick straight walls all around. I knew, knew, that I was going to sink and never be found. He reached out, grabbed my hand and pulled me to him. He said he’d never seen such fear in my eyes before. “It’s okay, I’m here. I’ve got you.” Then he sent me ahead of him, and he pushed me, swam to catch up, pushed me again, and by such shove and glide method, got me through the longer portion.
He helped me down boulders. Other women turned down his assistance. They managed fine on their own. But it was easier with his help. And at the end, when we ascended the steep 400 vertical feet out of the canyon, he waited patiently while I heaved through my asthmatic lungs, fighting for breath. “No problem, I will always rather be with you.”
What I loved best was having him there with me to share the sights of clear green pools formed in the hallows of red rock, experience the cool water as we slid down rocks, and laugh at the faces of scarlet colored monkey flowers.
This is why I am not frightened by this river of life and the unknown boulders, rapids, and bends. I am not in my raft alone. My husband is with me, enjoying the starry nights with me, paddling through the rapids, grabbing me so I don’t fall in and get swept away with the current, and listening to my stories as the river flows ever on.
Where this river leads, may seem beyond our control, fated by the hand who created it and planned it, but we know otherwise. This river, though we don’t know its twists and obstacles, is flowing where we choose to go. And we choose to stay in the boat together.
19 ½ min.
The rules for writing exercises are simple: Use the trigger that Susan has chosen:
- The tree the tempest with a crash of wood/Throws down in front of us is not to bar/Our Passage to our journey’s end for good,/But just to ask us who we think we are . . . –Robert Frost
Write for 20 minutes without stopping. Then, without doing any editing, send your exercise to Susan at sdayleyatymaildocom. She will post the exercise she finds most intriguing in this space next Wednesday. That person will choose the next trigger and exercise to feature, and so on.