Recently, amidst the chaos of the move and trying to bring so many of the plans we have to life, we decided we absolutely needed to drop it all and spend one last weekend as a family before school started. We’ve been through a lot and the boys have been champs – we needed a way to concentrate on enjoying each other. Because of the wonderful people in our lives, new and old, we were able to cover the store. (Thank you Leslie – your new friendship has been an unexpected blessing – and Thank you Nelle – when I used to change your diapers I would have never dreamed you would cover our store someday!) We drove to Vermont to visit very old and dear friends and embark on the Battenkill one more time.
The 13 mile journey is one that I can only dare to scratch the description of its beauty. There are places between the put-in in Arlington, Vermont and the take-out in New York state that you would have to see to believe. Amongst my favorites are the stretches of treacherously steep woods running straight down to the river- untouched by humans and more than likely very many animals. The evergreen trees spread their long limbs low to the ground all around them, and then across the river at water’s edge. Despite the deep and ancient feeling of the forest, it also has enough open space that you can fully appreciate the repetitive pattern of the beautiful grand trees. On the opposite spectrum, there are stretches of open fields that touch the river with undulating Green Mountains in the background. Sitting quietly in the canoe you half expect to see a team of oxen working the fields while smoke rises out of the chimneys. Often, the open fields are filled with high stalks of corn. The landscape is breathtaking and rejuvenating all at once. You can’t help but let the stress of life spill out into the water around you.
Now our dear friend, Howard, looks forward to the opposite of relaxing. The best part for him is navigating rocks and rapids from the back of the canoe. That was what he needed; to feel young and challenged and just the slightest sense of danger. We all look for different things out of the same experience. For my boys (including my husband) what they needed was fun; and they got that too. We stopped at rope swings and deep swimming holes. They jumped in making full-bore Tarzan sounds and generally being kids. I am happy to say the landscape was not lost on them either.
One thing struck me this time down the river that was different than last year’s trip. The water was lower, so the tangled old roots of the large trees were exposed. They were beautiful in their own way, and I took many pictures of their years of hard work and support. I thought how they represented all the the things that have us as people tied up in knots. The things underneath that we need to keep us alive – but somehow always get filled with twists and turns. Those knotted roots are generally things we try not to let others see, but when the water is low there is no way to hide them. There is beauty in those things as well though. They represent what we have done to stay alive and keep growing. Life isn’t always easy and we have done to reach down deep and make twisty turns to get to the source of what we need. For me, the beauty of the exposed roots beckoned me to not try to pretend that I only grow upwards and straight and tall. I hope we can all see our underpinnings and vulnerable spots as part of our beauty and what truly makes us who we are.
A piece of scripture that went through my mind as I looked at these exposed roots was Proverbs 3:6: In all your ways acknowledge (submit to) Him and He will make your paths straight. (Boy I know I can’t do that on my own – but thankfully time is nothing to Him and He can use every single twist for good.)