December light on the river seems to offer a forthright clarity and in the same view can embody ambiguity. The river has minimal vegetation in its bed, and something about the chilled air seems to sharpen the crispness of the views below the surface. The distant reflections on this midday trip were mirror-like. Perhaps because of this precision each delicate ripple in the water was sharply defined and further echoed every ripple of current across that particular span in view. Tendrils and wisp-like lines made for fascinating nature-made, elegant ink drawings atop the water. The clear skies and oblique angle of the sun added to the high relief and contrasts. If I had an anchor and a dry-suit, I could have stayed steady in one place and savored the sun’s slow arc and the resultant changing show.
But I prefer no suit—I mean no dry-suit (I DID have trunks and double layers on; although truthfully I suppose if it was warm and I wouldn’t offend folks, I WOULD prefer no suit). Besides my adornments, I love how the mostly leafless banks now reveal their naked foundations. At this time of year, one can get a fuller sense of the lay of the land and glimpse the occasional cliffs up the bank, and in select spots even a few caves. You get to see wondrous senior trees, hollowed out by the decades but still important participants in the endless cycle. Floating in different seasons in the same stretch of river cultivates an awareness that builds a certain unspoken knowing, an understanding. It’s like coming to know the traits of a good friend through different life circumstances.
Although holding still might allow experiencing a slow performance of the sun on the responsive riverscape, a primary part of floating is the steadily shifting movement. The sense that life is change and that you are part of the grand flow. Even when I pause and keep my focus on a unique tree, since my tube continues to float, the view of the sunlight striking that tree trunk subtly changes because where I’m looking from is changing. This of course offers our mind a more complex grasp of the nature of that particular thing we call a tree.
As is true in nearly all aspects of my experience, I can be intrigued by the physics but I’m captivated by the beauty. Whether with the world outdoors or within our relationship with others, the hearty resonance lies in the dynamic of the unfolding. Being a contemplative, observing witness is a lovely thing. But it seems to me truly BEING involves participating: an awareness of our body (breathing, heart beating, sensing, thinking, and recognizing those or that which is beyond our selves). Consciousness delicately balanced, poised within our selves and within the context of where we are, and with what other life. I wonder if it’s not just being an observer that makes experiencing beauty (and life) so vitalizing. Maybe what makes awareness special is when one can sense one’s self while sensing being immersed as a participant in what is at once the minutely and grandly evolving scheme.