Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sitting on the banks

Hello! You are the first to be reading my blog. I never thought I would actually create one, but I have found that sometimes I have opinions to share. This may provide a forum for them.

Why am I calling this "Watching the River Flow By"? Well, rivers (and other bodies of water) have been present in my life at most, if not all, important points in my life. When an infant and small child, we regularly crossed the Cumberland River on our way to visit our grandparents. And these same grandparents used to take us fishing on the Harpeth River. Our father's family had annual reunions on my uncle's property at Old Hickory Lake, a reservoir off the Cumberland River. As a teenager in Alabama, I dated a boy from Decatur, on the Tennessee River. On one occasion, I recall us going out on that river to water ski, and I looked up at the bridge my family and I crossed on a routine basis going between Birmingham and Nashville. I felt pretty small, and became quite aware of the depth and flow of the water, and the potential dangers it held. In college, of course, the University of Tennessee campus backs up to Fort Loudoun Lake, off that same Tennessee River. My career took me to cities with bays - - Tampa, Florida and San Francisco, California. In Tampa, my friends and I would go to Clearwater Beach on many occasions, and in San Francisco, I lived 30 blocks or so from the Pacific Ocean. I used to walk on the beach there, and frequently watched the sunset from above the Cliff House. In Charleston, South Carolina, the Ashley and Cooper Rivers come together to form the Atlantic Ocean, and it is at that point that I used to go sailing with friends, once even disembarking at Pinkney's Castle - an island in the middle of the Charleston Harbor. I met my husband in Charleston, and we frequently included the beach at Isle of Palms, or walking along the harbor at Waterfront Park or the Battery as part of our dating routine. In school I had read many times about Virginia locations, and George Washington's surveying. I remember reading about the Rappahannock River - - I now cross that river about 4 times per day going to and from work in Fredericksburg. I've seen it (and the Hazel River) flood; I've seen it nearly dried up. Most of the time, though, it just flows along, seemingly smooth yet possessing a strong undercurrent, splashing against boulders in some areas and becoming glassy in others.

There are obvious metaphors provided by rivers in our lives. I'm no exception to those experiences. As an adult, being dashed about against the rocks of human experience, I've sought serenity and tranquility that I mistakenly thought religion and meditation would bring. In that process, I stumbled upon Centering or Contemplative Prayer. I say "stumbled" because I was going down a path that, had I stayed on it, probably would have resulted in more bumps and bruises. But back to Centering Prayer. I attended a lecture of his, and then purchased his books, and in the imagery used by Father Thomas Keating, the process has to do with quieting the noises and settling the extraneous thoughts so that one's focus can be on God's presence - - or, more accurately - - one's intention to answer God's invitation to be in His presence. Everything else can be thought of as boats flowing down the river. That absolutely resonated with me. (Another image he used in his books is that of a small child climbing up in a parent or grandparent's lap and sitting quietly, calmly trusting in the protection of that person's arms. That is another subject I'll hopefully have time to explore later.)

Sometimes with this outlet, I will be trying to characterize the boats, distinguishing them from essential thoughts. (Occasionally, God does speak to us, even if we're not listening) Sometimes, I may jump on one of the boats and take a ride. Other times, I hope to find something that is meaningful to me - - a Presbyterian elder, Sunday School "teacher" , and first time commissioner to General Assembly from Shenandoah Presbytery. At all times, the opinion expressed herein will be my own. I hope that on occasions, they will be worthy.

May God bless you!