I have lived with my family on the Upper Hudson River for the past four years and love to take my kayak on the river as often as possible when weather permits. Sometimes I paddle for exercise or to release stress. Other times, I paddle to any of numerous quiet spots and just float, embracing the peace and stillness of the moment and feeling interconnected with all the life that surrounds me. The river is my sanctuary, teacher, therapist, and friend.
It is also a hazardous waste site.
For about three decades up until 1977, an estimated 1.3 million pounds of PCBs were discharged into the river several miles upriver from our home in what was, at the time, common industry practice. Designated a Superfund site, the Upper Hudson is currently in the process of being dredged, to reduce the amount of PCBs in the sediment at the bottom of the river.
Despite the contamination, I observe a diversity of wildlife along the river. Among my favorites are: bald eagles, great blue herons, beavers, painted turtles, and dragonflies.
However, this year I am drawn particularly to the water lilies. I have spent the past few weeks fascinated by a patch of water lilies across the river from our house and have photographed them extensively in all their various stages of opening and closing. I am intrigued by how the water lily floats on top of the water and yet remains rooted in the earth via a fabulous umbilical cord that is intertwined with the stems of neighboring water lilies and lily pads so that if one is moved (by my paddle, for instance), everything around it moves with it. I also am inspired by the amount of rest water lilies require each day. Each morning, the flowers look like they are yawning and stretching open from the tight buds to which they return by mid afternoon.
I have trouble finding words to describe the profound peace, interconnection, and stillness I experience while floating in my kayak and often wish I could bottle the feeling and give it freely to everyone. Ego falls away and is replaced with an experience of unity, in which there is no “other.” I call it “river bliss.” War, hatred, fear, and other ego creations make no sense when I am in this weightless, supported space. The peace and stillness uplift me from the gravity and pettiness of daily life and fill me with renewed strength.
While “river blissing” recently, it occurred to me that the Upper Hudson water lily provides a perfect metaphor, and I have adopted it as my personal mascot and inspiration. The water lilies on the river are growing in a toxic environment but bloom so beautifully nonetheless. We can do the same. They remind me, “Bloom where you are planted.”
There is a lot of insanity in the world at this time. Our most basic systems and institutions are becoming increasingly toxic and dysfunctional. And yet, this is where we are. Rather than allow ourselves to wither by blaming our situations and circumstances and rendering ourselves powerless, we can look for possibilities and opportunities and find the strength, hope, and creativity to open more fully and express our authentic nature. By doing this, we can emit a lovely fragrance into the world, provide beauty that inspires and uplifts others, and make the world a better place. We can inspire our children to bloom by following our example. We can guide them toward the sun that nourishes them and draws them upward, out of the muck, to embrace their potential.
The challenge is to choose every day to bloom as fully and authentically as possible rather than wither or remain closed in a bud. It is all about claiming our power, one day at a time, and allowing life to dance through us.
Experiencing and sharing river bliss is part of my dance. Although I cannot bottle the feeling, I can send postcards of the images and words that greet me on the river. And so…a new blog is born!
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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.