After a long, strenuous hike, you happen upon a river. A crude raft is beached on the sandy shore. Tacked to it is a paper that reads: “Take me downstream.” The handwriting strangely resembles your own.
You don’t know who made the raft, or why they’ve left it here. You don’t know how well it’s constructed. Does it even float?
You don’t know where the river leads, or how easy it will be to navigate. There may be calm pools ahead. But there may also be white-water rapids, even a waterfall.
You choose to trust. You wade the raft into the lazy current and shove off.
The raft has a sturdy push pole by which to propel the vessel forward and steer. For now, though, you collapse on the deck, content to drift. Your tired body has carried you over so many trails through arduous terrains, it’s relieved at last to be carried.
You snag the piece of paper from the screw fastening it to the raft. By some magic, the paper now reads, “To the Traveler.”
You flip it over. “Random Notes from the River Raft” is scribbled at the top.
Beneath that heading, you find a list of musings. Again, the handwriting looks just like yours. You can’t explain this. You can’t explain any of it. But as you read, you know it’s true:
You can’t say no to the river.
If you weren’t ready to make the trip, you wouldn’t have found me.
As your raft, I’m guaranteed to give you the ride of a lifetime.
Get to know me.
I’m one of a kind.
Appreciate my build.
I’m made from materials recycled from your life.
I can’t but stay afloat.
I’ll always support your weight, if you travel light.
The river is the guide and the journey. It knows where it’s going.
You’re the river’s passenger and companion.
Be grateful to pass through wherever the river takes us.
Nothing we pass through is forever.
Your life jacket is stored in your chest.
Forget what you think you know about rafting.
There’s no reason to push the river.
But you might have to push yourself.
Use slow, smooth pushes of the pole.
Fast strokes make us unstable.
Accept that I’ll never move in a straight line.
Learn to love zig-zags and circles.
Avoid over correction.
Trust my natural buoyancy.
Trust the water’s grace and flow.
Watch out for hazards or you’ll end up wet.
This is a law of nature.
No matter your skill, you’ll sometimes end up wet, anyway.
This is also a law of nature.
When you fall off me, float.
The river will always hold you up.
Its banks are waiting to receive you.
Maintaining balance while poling in mud requires extra practice.
To move in deep water, transform my pole into a paddle.
All it takes is a little re-visioning.
On the river, you’ll have everything you need, even when you don’t.
When you don’t have everything you need, keep going until you discover you do.
You’re never alone on the river.
If you feel forsaken, pay closer attention.
When you’re finished with me, leave me on shore.
Somebody else will use me someday.
But I won’t be the same raft.
You never get to the end of the river.
I’ll see you there someday.
Phyllis Cole Dai
This post first appeared in a recent issue of Staying Power, Phyllis’s weekly care package for creative, compassionate spirits. Get a boost in your inbox!