Today I have been reading the book, “Renewal in the Wilderness,” authored by the Founder of our organization, John Lionberger. He will be guiding a trip for us in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota in a few months and I’m trying to get to know him through his book.
Lately, I’ve attempted (and often failed, I must admit) to cultivate the art of listening and be more open to changes in my life. Transitions can be so frightening and the wilderness has been such a refuge/guide/teacher for me through some life transitions this past year. The wisdom of the mountains, woods, deserts, and rivers of Colorado, Utah, Oregon, California, Newfoundland, New Hampshire, and Maine have instructed me on giving up control. I’ve needed them in the last year and I’m so grateful for their being there for me. The following passage of the book, where John quotes a Sufi parable, really spoke to me this afternoon.
“There is a wonderful Sufi parable about a stream trying to make its way across a desert. It had managed to conquer all the mountain and valley obstacles right up to the edge of the desert, and it expected to conquer the sand as well. But the stream quickly found that the sand absorbed all its moisture and blocked its progress. When the desert told the stream to turn into vapor so it could be carried across the desert on the wind, the stream protested. After all, if it gave itself up to the wind, what reassurance was there that it would still be a stream? So it kept trying to move forward across the desert in the same way it had before.
But the stream failed and failed and failed again, constantly pouring its precious life-water into the same place in the desert. It could make no progress across the sponge of sand.
'Why can’t I remain the same stream that I am?' the stream cried out in frustration.
The desert answered, ever so wisely: 'You never can remain what you are. Either you become a swamp or you give yourself to the winds' [pg. 91 of John’s book, adapted from Idries Shah, ed., Tales of the Dervishes (New York: Dutton, 1969), 23-24]."
After typing this I’m really itching like crazy to get into the stern of a canoe (like NOW). I can’t decide if this is because I need to listen more or because I listen too much. Ugh; it’s tough being a stream.
*Photo credit: Nate Conroy. Lake Umbagog Wildlife Refuge, New Hampshire.