In all families, there are seasons of unhappiness and turmoil, and it came to mine the summer of my sixteenth year. While the circumstances surrounding the upheaval and chaos vary from family to family, ours began when my mom suffered with some health problems that made her extremely fatigued and to be honest, she was downright cranky. In addition to mom's problems, my dad was busy attending classes for his master's degree, taking mom to doctor appointments, teaching summer band, and valiantly steering my younger brothers and me through our various stages of adolescence.
The first week of summer Daddy sat us down at a family meeting and explained the situation. He assigned new chores for everyone. I was given the task of running the household. So, instead of flirting with cute boys at the swimming pool and going to movies with friends, I got stuck in the house doing the family cooking, housecleaning, laundry, and taking care of mama.
While I understood the reasons for this change in my summer plans, I was not exactly thrilled. After only a few weeks of this new regime, boredom and discontent settled in along with a sort of twitchy restlessness.
I enjoyed solitude. Normally during the summer my mom worked and Daddy managed my brothers and the household and I had plenty of time to myself for thinking and dreaming and writing stories. This year, however, mom was home and in bed most of the time. Daddy was gone all day, my brothers drove me nuts, and the house closed in on me. One evening as I stood at the sink washing dishes, I thought I just might explode if I didn't find a little time for myself. It dawned on me as I put the last pan in the cabinet that I actually could have some time for myself if I got up early before the rest of the family. I could take a run, get some exercise, or just sit out in the backyard.
The next morning, while a few stars remained in the sky and the night bugs still chirped, I slipped out the door, hopped the back fence, and crept into the woods for a barefoot run along the trails and paths crisscrossing the fifty or so acres of oak and mesquite tree woods. The earth on the trails, tamped down to a hard surface by years of put the last pan in the cabinet that I actually could have some time for myself if I got up early before the rest of the family. I could take a run, get some exercise, or just sit out in the backyard.
The next morning, while a few stars remained in the sky and the night bugs still chirped, I slipped out the door, hopped the back fence, and crept into the woods for a barefoot run along the trails and paths crisscrossing the fifty or so acres of oak and mesquite tree woods. The earth on the trails, tamped down to a hard surface by years of
I ran again, at a slower pace, taking in the lemony gray light of early morning and savored the pungent mossy fragrance of the woods. Then, the trail ended, as they all did, at the small lake.
A mist hovered above the blue water and a few rays of sunlight streamed down out of the watercolor sky. Looking out across the water it seemed as though I'd entered a huge cathedral - a sacred place.
I stood quietly at the lakes edge breathing in the peace that permeated the entire area and breathing out my frustration and teenaged angst. Everything in me cooled and calmed, mind and body.
Two things caught my attention that morning that whispered a bit of wisdom. First, a fish snatched an insect from the surface of the lake, sending rippling circles across the glassy water. I watched as the energy of the disturbance was absorbed back into the waters calmness and wondered if it might be possible for me to accept and absorb the disturbances and ripples that would inevitably come into the day ahead as I cared for my family. I thought I probably could, and that gave me a little hope.
The second thing I observed came when I dipped my toes into the cool water, scattering the tiny minnows and disturbing the dirt and sediment on the lake bottom. I watched as the particles settled and the water slowly became clear again. No matter how much dirt I stirred up, the water slowly and steadily cleansed itself of the particles. It's just what water does.
If ever there was a life lesson that was it. My home had been stirred up and it was a mess, but without fighting against it, I could simply let things slowly fall through me and calmly settle. In the meantime, while I applied the waters principle, I'd found a sanctuary.
The woods with its trails and the lake were there for me if I'd only choose to take advantage of them. Before returning home, I committed myself to a barefoot run through the woods every morning, watch the sun rise over the lake, and be grateful I'd found a quiet place where I could gather my thoughts before another busy day. The reverie and solitude I needed were at the lake at the end of the trails and I had no doubt if I continued to show up, the water would teach me the lessons I needed to get me through the rough summer.
I returned home that morning to the same hungry brothers, a basket of ironing, and floors that needed to be swept, but I was forever different. I now carried with me, (and still do to this day) the hope of water.
Reprinted with permission from Pond Boss Magazine