I walked up our street today, to the park at the end of the road, and took my morning walk along the footpath by the river.
The river is very low right now. Even the spots that, in winter, are so deep and swift that they might carry you away are now scarcely knee deep, the rounded river rocks clearly visible through the water. In the shallows, water chuckles over rounded rocks, bubbling over tiny falls and tumbling in ankle-deep rapids.
The vast cottonwood trees that lean over the river's edge and dip their gnarled toes in its water smell like sugar. The weekend's soft rain has washed the dust from their leaves and the hot weather has drawn their sap up under their rough bark.
A city of birds finds shelter in the branches of the cottonwoods and, secure in their wooded home, they greet the day with bright conversation. On the lowest branches - the ones that reach out over the river channel - kingfishers are posted along the water's edge like sentries, their heads cocked to one side as they look past the surface reflections to glimpse the silvered, swimming bounty beneath. Now and then one takes flight, aiming itself like a spear and shooting through that mirrored surface, returning to its perch just seconds later, a wriggling fish grasped firmly in its beak.
In the bare snag top of a tall fir tree, an eagle watches the water intently too. The low river means hungry times for these great birds, who often rely upon the larger fish for food. No creature below escapes its gaze; its fierce yellow eyes searching, searching for its morning meal.
In my favourite swimming hole, a large black dog is cheerfully taking his morning exercise, gladly crossing the width of the pond again and again to retrieve a fallen branch thrown with surprising vigour by the elderly woman he accompanies. Finally done with the game, he clambers out onto the sandbar at the far edge of the pool and shakes, back lit rainbow droplets forming a corona all around him.
The path winds through a darkling glade, the sunlight broken into phosporous-bright shards where it breaks through the leaves above. So bright is the glare through the trees to the east that it obscures my view, but beneath them is a wide, still pond. In its surface I can see the green canopy, perfectly reflected.
Dragonflies flit across the surface of the pond, stopping to light from time to time on blades of grass and floating leaves that seem entirely too delicate to support them. While resting there, they look for all the world as if they are sitting on the glass of a framed painting, on the surface but somehow not of it.
Sometimes, I think, life can feel that way too: as if we are traveling on the surface of it but not really a part of what is going on around us. There is a calmness in that form of observation and a clarity in remarking upon the smallest steps in the great, sweeping dance around us but, really, we are all partners in it too. We may step off the floor to draw a breath now and again, and to listen to the music, but soon life takes our hand and draws us out onto the floor again to take our place within the figures it turns.
So, this Monday, this start of the week, this beginning of a new song, I wish you this: May you have time to step back and draw a breath, to admire the beauty and grace of the world turning all around you, but - most of all - may you find joy in being a part of the dance.