The back story:
"The designation of Browns Canyon National Monument signals a renewed commitment for an area respected and loved by tens of thousands of people” …...said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "This land is more than worthy of special designation. This truly is a monument for all."
Browns Canyon harbors a wealth of scientifically significant geological, ecological, cultural, and historical resources, and is an important area for studies of paleoecology, mineralogy, archaeology, and climate change. The area's unusual geology and roughly 3,000-foot range in elevation have given rise to a diversity of plants and wildlife, including a significant herd of bighorn sheep, golden eagles, and Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine. (See http://1.usa.gov/19R5RRy for full article)
I'd like to add to this list of resources – its wealth of life lessons that spiritually enrich and empower those who play in the Canyon's whitewater. My four years of being a raft guide on the Arkansas River, taking hundreds of campers through Brown's Canyon, taught me my most important life lessons and started me on a decade of whitewater paddling. Here's a blog post I wrote last summer:
"I find that risk toward expansive and creditable goals is essential." So starts a newspaper article that I have kept with me since my first out of country adventure in Guatemala in the 70s. Now it's all yellow and dog-eared. But it gave me three words that have become the measuring rod for all I do. The full sentence reads: "In any risk situation, I try to maintain a willingness to let go of things that are not working out in a natural and spontaneous way. There must be freedom, flow and growth. But a new talent or skill, a new friend, a fresh perspective on my life - these are well worth the soul-searching that risk usually provokes."*
Enter RIVERS. This is one of the things that makes me feel grounded. It gives me all three: freedom, flow and growth.
Rivers were a big part of my life for about ten years as a raft guide and whitewater kayaker and racer. Next to the the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, I probably learned more life lessons from this one natural resource than all others.
With whitewater rafting, I learned about connection: how to get a group of novices to work together quickly to play in the rapids and have fun. With kayaking, I learned about dominion: much about overcoming fear and being able to trust, With racing, I learned excellence: how to sharpen my skills and get stronger, faster and more accurate with each race I took on.
But the most important lesson learned in rivers was HUMILITY. Whenever I got to the river, got in my boat, and stuck my paddle in the first current, I noticed how unimpressed the river would be with all of my past accomplishments. Nothing from my past mattered except what I could put to use that day, that moment on the river. Now - was the only currency. If I got heady and approached the river to "conquer it" - it never worked. I usually tipped over, swamped or made a fool of myself. But when I approached the river, open, alert, and wisely assessing the currents against my strength and skill, I had the exhilarating joy of wrestling and playing in the strong currents of the whitewater.
In all my runs, whether it was with a group in a raft, or on my own in my kayak, I was successful when I was clean - free of fear and bravado - and committed to the moment. And by successful I mean that I could experience the full joy of dominion over fear, and of blending my strength with the power of the river.
So, how does this translate?
I have an appetite for new things. And the world is wide. When I have sought out a new experience or some new element or a new person has come into my experience, I find these lessons of connection, overcoming fear and humility very helpful.
When the pride of experience tempts me to plow through another’s obstruction, I remember that a river flows around the rocks, and I am careful not to get caught in the eddy of turbulent water behind the rock. I can be gentle, yielding, and not get caught up on my own or another's stubbornness.
When another challenges how I do things, I remember to not stand on the things I did in the past, but on what wisdom directs me to do now. I follow a higher current. Progress is a law of God and so progress is constantly working and moving forward. I can listen to those currents of prayer and move forward.
The river is constant; constantly moving. Rivers will find their own levels with the least resistance. They will get you where you want to go. Likewise, God is constant, and as children of God, we are constantly moving and expressing all of God’s qualities. We will all find our own level of expression that is full and satisfying, -- strong, enduring and joy-full. We are where we need to be and we will get to where we need to go.
Mary Baker Eddy shares these ideas from an article from Miscellaneous Writings (p. 224) and brings it all home for me:
We should remember that the world is wide; that there are a thousand million different human wills, opinions, ambitions, tastes, and loves; that each person has a different history, constitution, culture, character, from all the rest; that human life is the work, the play, the ceaseless action and reaction upon each other of these different atoms.
Then, we should go forth into life with the smallest expectations, but with the largest patience; with a keen relish for and appreciation of everything beautiful, great, and good, but with a temper so genial that the friction of the world shall not wear upon our sensibilities; with an equanimity so settled that no passing breath nor accidental disturbance shall agitate or ruffle it; with a charity broad enough to cover the whole world's evil, and sweet enough to neutralize what is bitter in it.....
*This came from an article "Stepping Forward" written by essayist Alex Noble in 1974 in The Christian Science Monitor. I couldn't find him ( or her?) online, but I did come across this piece that is equally as inspiring.
All photos from stock.
Kim C Korinek, CSB
banner photo (c) Micah Korinek; other photos by Gabe Korinek, Kim Korinek, Brad Crooks. Leslie Larsen (c) 2016