The river was up this morning. Four or five feet higher than the near-normal level I noted at 9:30 p.m. last night when I finally made it home. Up—and, of course, muddy. A surprising rise because yesterday was bright and clear, reminiscent of an Eric Sloane landscape—with cerulean blue skies and only the occasional puffy cotton-ball clouds.
The reason for the river's rise had to be caused by a Sunday storm which arrived late, just as dusk was fading into dark. Myladylove and I were at my daughter's home, south of town, where we'd spent an enjoyable evening visiting family and friends. Someone happened to glance out the kitchen window, noting how the trees were tossing and swaying. A better look revealed a malevolent front heading our way from the west. In only a minute or two, a thick dark blanket was drawn over the horizon, blotting out the sky. Lightening flashed. Thunder boomed and shook the building. The dogs were terrified, while many of us crowded close to the windows for a better view, oohing and ahhing with the delicious glee of those who are safe and snug from any uncomfortable elements.
Like a lot of summer storms, this one seemed to be more show than substance—one filled with ear-splitting thunder-claps and blinding flashes like carpet bombs signaling the start of Armageddon…but in fact merely a histrionic drama of feigned violence; sound and fury and stroboscopic lights, but not much actual rain. At least not that we saw while at my daughter's, nor minutes later, when we were smack in the midst of it on the Interstate during the drive home. And not much evidence of its rough, drenching passage afterwards, in the northwestern precincts of the county, as we tooled along the backroads leading the final few miles to the cottage.
Judging by this morning's high water, the storm wasn't nearly so benign elsewhere. Upstream, probably a couple of counties away where the headwaters are gathered, it obviously rained quite hard. Thinking about that later on, when I pulled off the road in order to photograph a milkweed in velvety-pink bloom, I realized this was just another excellent example of the stream acting as a metaphor for life.
We never know what's heading our way from upstream. High water or bad news…either could already be bearing down. Skies may currently be blue and untroubled, with no hint of what's in store, even as a muddy torrent roars in our direction.
Worrisome? Sure…but don't forget that tomorrow's surprise can just as easily be good, the swift current carrying a blessing to deposit on our banks.
That's the point—we just don't know. We can plan and schedule, prepare in every way possible—and then we look up and the unimaginable is knee-deep in our dooryard. Rivers remind you of that and personally, I'm grateful. Too often I get to thinking I'm in charge, the master of my small universe. A regular reality smack does me good.
What I do know is this: to find courage, you must first know fear; that hopelessness is the field where faith is born; and that an empty heart can always be filled with love.
To all who've wondered over my absence (and those who, until this moment never realized I'd gone missing) let me assure you I'm fine…and back, blogwise. I've been out making photos, and as I always do, listening to the wise old river. Consider yourself warned…