“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” —Heraclitus
We’ve all heard this quote a million times—soulful ancient wisdom from Heraclitus. A powerful metaphor for life’s experiences. These words kept coming to mind yesterday as my kids and I played at the river.
We hiked down to our local river bottom and played in the water. We hopped on rocks, and sat on warm boulders with the cool water tickling our feet. Exploring the same trails, rivers and swimming holes that they’ve known their whole lives. Yet every time we go, we see through new eyes, have new insights and new connections with nature.
Because of the drought our riverbeds had been dry for the past few years. Hot, dry, brittle. All of us longing for the life force of water to quench our thirsty souls.
Now we breathe in river magic.
For a long time I looked at the shape of the river and the remains of the trees and other plants it had washed downstream. The tangled sticks. The width of it. Evidence of a mighty force of water rushing through during recent storms.
So much has changed since the last time the water flowed. I am not the same wo/man hu/man. Now I am 50. Now I have two teenagers. Now my marriage is solid. Now my father is gone.
The river ghost carries stones too heavy for us to carry.
My son hopped on rocks like he always has.
My daughter jumped in as she always has, soaking shoes, socks and clothes.
We watched the moving water rush past. We watched strong horses cross the river. Everything was the same, and everything was different.
If only rivers flowed in our veins.
I watched them play and I saw them as toddlers, as young children, as tweens.
I hopped on memories like river rocks.
I see them learning to swim, throwing rocks, collecting pebbles. I see them sunburnt and crying, hungry and cranky. I see myself carrying, always carrying one of them down the trail. I see them running ahead with their friends. I see them watching for snakes, picking sage.
If only water didn’t rush through our fingers.
I see who they are today. I see them enjoying each other. I get a glimpse of who they will become. I see them coming here for refuge in troubled times. I see them see themselves.
My daughter collected tadpoles, just as she always does in the Spring. I guess being 13 doesn’t change a thing when it comes to tadpoles.