A curious rhythmic beat worked its way into my half sleep. It was barely dawn and as I listened, even before I opened my eyes, I heard first the chorus of birdsong that is the ritual of the Northwest Spring. I had taught myself how to tune into each voice of this holy choir, raising their worship to the Creator who has brought them out of the cold stark winter to the renewal of spring. Complex melodies and beautiful songs only God could put within these tiny creatures.
My husband of 40 years and I have our own nest perched upon a bluff overlooking Lake Washington. Large opening windows are our headboard, inviting in the fresh breezes off the lake. Year round, when we go to bed we close the bedroom door tight from the rest of the house and bring the outdoors in with us. Winter winds whistle through the small cracked open windows and we hunker down deep under the quilts.
As Spring dawns, those headboard windows begin to open wider and wider until by summer it is as if we sleep in a treehouse. The whole house is open, doors and windows flung wide to capture the cooling offshore breezes in the evenings.
On this spring morning, eyes closed, I heard above the birdsong a steady rhythmic knock. Eight oars hitting the locks in unison, as a rowing shell made its way up the mirror calm water of dawn. I know this sound. It is etched in my soul. It is the theme song of one of the most thrilling chapters of my life. Suddenly the coxswain calls the count, brings them into a final sprint, practicing I knew for the upcoming 2000 meter competitions that mark the Spring Season.
For a decade in my 40’s, I rose before 5:00 a.m. to join my rowing team on the early morning waters of Lake Washington. I lived it, breathed it, worked harder than ever in my life. It was a chapter of life where I learned what I was made of, when I tested my limits regularly, where I met strong women who became my teammates, my friends.
Opening my eyes my gaze found its mark, seeing the long sleek shell cutting a V upon the mirror water. Oh God, it makes my heart beat.
There are some experiences in life that become part of you. They have changed who you are and you never forget them as long as you live.
This was rowing for me. One of the hardest things I have had to do in life is slowly let it go. My particular body could not handle more than a decade of the intensity of the training. My low back lost its spring, its cushioning and the hard work and strain began to take its toll. I rowed through pain until it became clear that the harm outweighed the good. I cannot give adequate words to the grief of this loss. It just was and at times like this, hearing the oars hit the locks, it brought that deep loss back. I lay my head down, closed my eyes and let the grief wash over me as I listened to the rhythm of the oars slowly move out of range.
Then I heard another sound, the wild call of geese. Opening my eyes, I lifted my gaze to see a perfect V formation of Canadian geese moving across the lake, their reflection mirroring their graceful synergy. The wonder of it took my breath away. From grief to wonder ~ in a moment. It was as if that morning God was speaking to me through the songs drifting through my window. Since I was a young girl, an insatiable curiosity and wonder of the natural world has been the conduit of His presence to me. As my heart opened watching the geese, my spirit opened to hear God. I realized in that moment that I had been allowing the grief to hold me hostage. I felt a beckoning in the call of the geese to let go of what has been and to open my eyes to see what is next.
Life’s seasons change as we age. So many transitions that we can view as losses. Why not instead view them as completions. Learning to say, “It’s not my turn anymore” can change our perspective. Better to ask yourself, “What have I learned?” Cultivating gratitude for what has been and expectancy for what’s next opens the door to listen to new desires, new direction.
And isn’t it amazing ~ the Spirit speaks through avenues that are uniquely meaningful to us. For me, through a rowing shell passing by and a flock of geese on an early morning in spring. What is it for you?
Cindy Peterson is a native of the Pacific Northwest. Mother of four, Grandmother, wife and lover of God. Captivated by the redemptive work of God through story in the small group setting. Outdoors woman, athlete, gardener, photographer. She loves to run in the woods with her dogs. You can read more of Cindy’s writing here.
Cindy, This was so beautifully written. I felt like I was there listening to the boat pass by and the geese flying overhead as you contemplated what had been and what is in the present. It reminded me of one of my favorite poems by Wendell Barry, The Peace of Wild Things. Thank you for writing down your thoughts, some of which I will be carrying along with me as I go about my day. Blessings to you and yours.
You invited me into the sounds and cold and memories with such vividness. Thank you for your vulnerability.
“Why not instead view them as completions?” I will be mulling over this for a while. Thank you.
I am in a season of many transitions and, and Your writing touched me and challenged my perceptions. Instead of condemning or criticizing myself, I can reframe those losses and transitions, and celebrate the goodness that I have enjoyed, and look at the present with kindness and optimism. Thank you for your eloquent imagery.