I have recently started taking long walks around my property in the coolness of the early mornings. Sneaking out of the quiet house, I bundle myself up and head West, up the hill with my dogs bounding around me. The air is still and fresh, so fresh that it seems that it has just enjoyed a long night of deep, refreshing sleep, and has wakened to present itself anew.
Our walks usually follow the same basic pattern. West up the hill, a visit to the barn then turn North and cross the large granite boulders that offer the perfect vantage point which always results in a rest from the walking. I usually climb one of the boulders and stand upon its top taking in the view of the sun rising over the valley’s edge. Eventually we make our way back South East, include a visit to the creek then back to the house for some breakfast and a hot cup of tea.
Assuming I would once again follow this pattern, I set out one morning not too long ago. Changing my route every so slightly to avoid the too-large piles of snow on the ground, I found myself following the path of the small creek that runs longwise across my lot.
The creek is small, requiring only a large step to cross it, but nonetheless, it appears to take its job in life seriously. It was easy to see from a distance that the creek was frozen solid. Even its miniature falls were crystallized water molecules that formed elaborate and intricate shapes and designs.
Stopping to appreciate more closely the formation of this frozen water, I bent down, placing my hands directly on the surface. Gradually, I found myself tilting my ear closer and closer to the creek’s surface. Eventually, with my head almost resting on the ice, I confirmed my suspicion, there was still water running beneath the ice.
Although the frozen top was inches thick and could easily support my weight, it wasn’t all-encompassing. I stayed there for several minutes, with my head next to the ice, almost in disbelief, but at the same time strangely comforted.
Walking away from that creek, I couldn’t help but feel hopeful. No matter how thick that ice was, the life blood of the creek remained. My thoughts immediately began to travel to the disadvantaged youth I work with. Incarcerated parents, forced foster children, distracted students and victims of adult violence, these children appear in many ways frozen.
Some have thicker ice than others, but at this stage in their lives, I still hold to the belief that there is running water somewhere inside of them. Be it a child from across town, a genocide survivor, the unwanted with disabilities, or the abandoned bound for a life no child should ever experience, I truly believe that at least while they are still young, their lifeblood isn’t thoroughly frozen…yet.
I guess this means that I am not a determinist, but I believe you would be hard pressed to find anyone who works in human service a professing determinist. The work may be hard, frustrating and down right unsuccessful at times, but I know now that with whomever I am interacting with, I will not be able to get that sound of muted running water out of my mind.
It has become a credo if you will. A mantra that the human soul is resilient and worth investing in. A challenge to be persistent and involved. And at the core, a thanksgiving with a realization that the one who created the thick ice across the creek is the same one who cultivated the running water within my own soul.