It is Spring Break and my husband is between work trips. So, we pack up the camping trailer for a few days and drive away to our favorite spot in Arizona. It is about a 2 hour drive north to this hidden paradise on Oak Creek. This time of the year, the melted snow carves its way through the land at a rapid chilly pace. It is tranquil and then turbulent over the boulders…tranquil and then turbulent again. The sound and graceful motion is mesmerizing. I make several trips to my special spot on a creek-side rock to soak my feet numb and meditate on the effortless liquid flow.
This is a place where children are free-range and roam. No cares or worries. Everyone seems to look out for everyone else. I give my son some cash to have in his pocket to spend freely and at will in the little general store on the premises. He decides to buy an inner tube so he can float down the melted snow creek.
His new purchase inflated and tucked under his arm, we, as a family, walk up creek to a rope swing dangling from a tree. We all decide that this tranquil spot is the gangway for the tubing excursion. He swings from the rope and drops into the liquid snow. Toss him his vessel. He embarks. My husband advises him to paddle his arms to steer in the desired direction. Goosebumps head to toe and he’s off.
Smooth sailing, until he reaches the turbulence. First boulder, kidney shot. Second boulder, blow to the elbow. By the time he has awkwardly pinballed his way to just about the end of the turbulence, he falls off his inner tube. His vessel is gaining distance from him. He panics at the sight of his free-range purchase floating away. My husband is guiding him from the bank of the creek to just stand up in the shallow water. The rocks beneath him are slippery. He gets to his feet and knee-shakingly makes his way to dry land.
He is overwhelmed with the experience. None of us are sure of what just happened. We walk back to camp. Drying off his cold wet body and damp ego, we rest.
He and I talk about how life is like the creek. Sometimes there are obstacles that create turbulence in our lives. In those situations, we need to be like the creek water and flow over or around those obstacles effortlessly. When we struggle or rigidly fight the natural flow… we get thrown off our vessel. We panic and forget that we can just regain our footing and stand up.
We discuss how we get as many opportunities as we need to make it right… to do it again. I hand him more money and tell him to go to the general store to purchase another inner tube. Explaining how this is symbolic of the chances we get in life… as many as we need. As many inner tubes, as many chances, as many fresh starts as we need. I encourage him to try again. He needs to get back on a new vessel to be reassured that he can handle any turbulence along the way. Sending him on a solo journey back to the store.
Before he goes, his dad has commandeered his escaped vessel. I send the two of them together back to the creek because this is their journey to conquer the turbulence… as two men against the world.
He returns to camp. Successful. This time standing a little bit taller, braver.
Later, he and I went to my special spot to numb our toes and be mesmerized by the liquid flow.
We witness the water unhesitantly-unhaltingly-effortlessly flowing over and around the boulders. Confident in the way it handles itself against the turbulence. Gracefully etching its path along the way. Steering itself in the desired direction. I break the silence between us, telling him that we do not expect him to go through life without faltering. If… no when… when the turbulence in life throws him off his vessel he must regain his footing on the slippery obstacles, stand up, and try again… a million times…try again.
And from each of those times, learn from the experience… butt up and elbows in.