In the Creek

I’ve been in the creek. The searing summer heat we’ve been having seems to have finally broken, but it’s memory from yesterday and the blazing weeks prior propelled me into the cold, fresh water. There was the merest suggestion in the wind as I walked into the woods of something cool, the time of the harvest that lays ahead, but yesterday’s 95+ degrees are hardly a distant memory, and such temperatures may well return. It was my first long walk since the July full moon, which is crazy. It’s unlike me, a) not to walk, and b) not to walk, even at night. But the last walk I took after dark, it was still 85 degrees, and I just sort of gave up. Even for short jaunts to look around, check out the butterflies, watch the turtles in the lake, just too hot.

So today was deeply refreshing. Back at my favorite bend in the creek, evidence from the big floods that hit our area in May includes a section of the creek bed that has gotten wider. Now, it appears my nephew has envisioned this widened area…oh, a mama wild turkey is leading a large, and I do mean large, fold of young turkeys across the back yard, having carefully made sure her pathway was clear; an older turkey just brought up the rear. There were 16 all together….as a potention swimming hole (never mind there is a perfectly good swimming hold half a mile up the creek, a lovely, deep, cold basin below a small waterfall). He has piled branches and other natural debris to dam up my damn creek. Sigh. He’s 15. I should enjoy his antics while they last; he’ll be grown and gone before I know it.

Even though I have an opinion about obstructing creek water flow during the hottest summer on record, a creek with a highly valuable ecology that feeds a lake, I am not above getting in and wallowing in the results. Standing on the edge, my feet were doing something akin to aching, begging me to step, anticipating what it would feel like to be removed from the blistering hit, submerged in water the water that is bottomed with small, smooth stones a million shades of sparkling brown. No further thinking was required. My clothes came off. The water sent inimitable freshness through me. My body shuddered a wordless “ah.”

There is nothing like being in a creek, resting on my back, the water parting at the crown of my head, running along my body, my world view turned upside down to now see the tree people fanning the sky, dappled sunlight moving between thousands of leaves. I spied a particularly handsome sycamore, and old, tall one, it’s beautiful bark peeling back, exposing its mottled trunk. The sycamores that line my school came to mind. More tree people who have been my friends (thank you….). It will be autumn up there before you know it. The season comes sooner there.

If I do my best thinking outdoors, I do my optimal thinking in a creek. A professional decision I need to make by tomorrow came to mind, and suddenly, maybe it was my inverted position, fresh ways of regarding it, more holisitc and spiritual criteria by which to be guided, came to mind.

Democratic Republic of Congo is a country that is up the creek. Site of the African world war, 5.4 million dead, armed militias running amok, often called The Worst Place In The World To Be A Woman (just when I thought Yemen was hard to beat), natural resources being plundered although for different purposes (largely technology used and consumer by the global north), the consequences to the people and the land are largely similar to what happened during King Leopold’s time.

Why do I do this? Voluntarily disrupt my life of ease and comfort, where my greatest gripe is my sister’s peculiar insistence on mowing the valley in spite of compelling arguments I make against it? Where my “pain” consists of seeing a place the tractor missed, and noticing the incredible butterfly habitat that survived mowswitz, the beautiful passion flower (Tennessee’s state wildflower), the variety of grasses that, had they been left undisturbed, would have provided amazing food for the migrating flocks who will be passing through before too long. This is actually quite serious, environmental degradation, habitat reduction, its impact on animals of all types….My point is that occupying myself with this blessed piece of land is as high stakes as my daily life at home ever gets.

In eastern Congo, the daily stakes for a woman like me include rape, gang rape, object rape, kidnapping, sexual slavery. This is the entry level problem, ground zero of a female’s existence.

I do this because I can. I do this because I must.

I do feel fear. I have been through this before; I call it a “prescience of grief.” It’s that daunted, jittery moment before a huge wave crashes, and I, standing in the powerful ocean staring at the advancing crest, begin to seriously doubt the abandon and love of adventure that put me in the goddamn ocean in front of a wave that could break my neck.

That is how powerful the feelings can be on these trips; emotions can feel like waves with the power to shatter and dissemble a person beyond any hope of being made whole, of living in peace, of enjoying simplicity and engaging in mindless indulgences like laughing at a funny movie.

And, I do know that that fear is a lie, it is “future events appearing real,” or, “future emotions appearing real.” I can’t necessarily explain how it works, but going into the shattering, dissembling place actually makes me more whole, more aware of simplicity, more grateful, so grateful I sometimes cry, when I laugh, like I did last week at the county fair, or on the set of “Flypaper,” when the other actors would make me laugh and the laughter had something of weeping in it.

I am less of a woman when I ignore the plight of women elsewhere. I am more human when I chose to align myself with their realities, share their truth, witness their lives, and admit their pain into my soul.