Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Paddling Downstream

As I sat on my good neighbor's porch bench yesterday, staring out at the gray rainy morning, I went back in memory to another warm, humid , rainy spring day when I made a wish.

It was the first (and quite likely will be the last) time I took a canoe trip.  My at-the-time boss decided it would be a great idea to have a staff outing in late May on a nearby river.  No rapids or anything like that; just a fun float downstream. 

Of course, things never do turn out quite as we expect.  There I was stuck in a canoe paddling very inexpertly by myself because the boss swore he had wrenched his shoulder.  (He hadn't, I found out later; he just felt lazy.)  That's when the skies opened up and we were drenched by a heavy spring storm complete with thunder and lightning, as well as a bit of hail.  It was dangerous to be on the water but it would have been even more dangerous to take shelter under the trees.  There was literally no place to go except downstream.

I was miserable and wanting to be just about anywhere other than where I was when we rounded a corner and I saw a house up on the bluff above the river.  It was an older place with a generously wide porch lined with rocking chairs.  And, oh, I wished with all my heart that I could sit on that porch watching the storm that was pounding all around us.  It looked safe and welcoming.  I've never forgotten that place or the depth of that heart-wish.

And so there I was yesterday, sitting on the wide and welcoming porch at my neighbors.  There is nothing, truly nothing, like sitting on a deep old-fashioned porch watching a storm but safely sheltered from it.  That's something I love, and that's why I was irresistibly drawn back to the memory of another spring day.

Several years after the awful canoe trip, I attended a forestry seminar.  After a day in the field measuring trees, the participants were invited to partake of a meal at a very exclusive bird-hunting plantation.  It's the sort of place where dignitaries, heads of state (President Bush, for example), and other VIPs go to hunt or to relax.  It's not generally open to the public but for high-paying guests.  All the seminar attendees were conscious of the honor of being able to visit there. 

It was late May again, so, of course, it was storming.  That's just the way the weather treats us here in South Mississippi.  As I walked into the beautifully rustic main room of the lodge at the plantation, I saw that the back wall was all doors that opened onto a porch with rocking chairs.  The guide welcomed us to sit wherever we'd like and to go to the porch if we wished.   I was irresistibly drawn forward through those doors to the outside.  And as I sat on the porch watching the lightning and driving rain over the river below the bluff, I realized that I was sitting exactly where I had wished with all my heart to be five years earlier.

I still catch my breath when I recall that moment.  Sometimes wishes really do come true. 

Life is good.

the view from my good neighbor's porch on a rainy late May morning

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