The first days of February hearken a bleak stretch of winter burnout that is part and parcel of life in the Pacific Northwest. Flashbacks of summers past infiltrate my thoughts as I go about my daily business. The first green buds and shoots are popping out on bushes and trees and pushing tentatively through the soil, teasing me with their promise of the warmth and sunshine to come. But alas, it is still months before this promise will be fulfilled.
This winter my mind is pleasantly haunted by the rivers I visited last summer: Cascade, Metolius, Beckler, Upper Deschutes, Lewis, Skykomish, and Stillaguamish to name a few. My boyfriend is a life long fly-fishing enthusiast. Through his passion I have rediscovered the joys of wandering alongside streams of all sizes, a beloved pastime of my childhood in Oregon. Though I did not cast a single fly last summer, I became adept at packing the car at a moments notice to head out to a beautiful river for an afternoon or a weekend of meditative meandering. While my boyfriend concerned himself with his rods and flies, I equipped myself with a towel, a canvas camping chair, beverages, snacks, a writing journal, a book, a camera, and sometimes, my children.
I learned to meditate in the city. For years I have practiced techniques designed to still my monkey-mind in the midst of every kind of manmade distraction. Much to my delight, I discovered there is no need for “technique” alongside a river. The river itself IS the technique, the meditation, and ultimately the meditator. The water, wind and wildlife sounds are not distractions, but are the breath and heartbeat of nature and a soothing anchor for the busy mind.
I know there is joy and purpose to be found in all seasons, even in the darkest stretches of winter. While I try to stay grounded in the beauty and meaning of the present season, I cannot help but feel the pull of summer rivers. I wonder what this dark February will reveal to me when the sunlight plays on the rivers again next summer.