“I am looking at”…down by the riverside
By the shoreline of the Chattahoochee River, these words tumbled out today during a 10-minute writing practice. While it wasn’t to the tune of “I remember,” as I mentioned earlier this week, it was to another starting place that Natalie Goldberg recommends: “I am looking at.” Often, if not always, we must start right where we are – with what’s right in front of our face, and thankfully I found myself there today.
I am looking at a humming, drifting river, widened by time and man’s manipulation. In spite of her grim, muddy color that does not invite one in for a swim, she does give life to a handful of creatures that must surely love calling her “home.” A slicked-back otter (or maybe a nutria, his far dirtier cousin from Louisiana) glides with grace ‘neath current and wave as a regal mallard stretches his neck high above water so that all may glimpse his emerald authority. Along the distant shore, wild geese assemble and hover, ever faithful in their waiting for the others to catch up. It has been supremely quiet until now, as man-made sounds break the low murmur offered by river – her steady breath and rhythm come to be because of the big-bodied rocks that punctuate her path – the obstacles in her way. It fascinates me that she can still find and use her voice when the way is not easy. She goes on gliding and careening as God made her — and even with a song. I want to be like that.
I look over at mama, the shared silence between us yet not between us, but rather drawing us together in this union of sweet sun, gentle breeze, and the canopy made by regal, stately trees whose limbs loom above us, heavy with sap and wisdom. In this very simple time that needs no introduction, no disclaimer, no explanation, nature invites my mind to empty, my soul to rest, and my eyes to explore the mysterious depths of a river and my own lonely and infinite heart.
Even if you aren’t looking out from muddied river banks at the masterpiece nature offers, wherever you are deserves to be noticed. Be right where you are and look out from where you are. Pay attention. What do you see? Write it down.
As Natalie urges, “let it rip.”