Peace Like A River
On December 10, I took a couple hour break from my extremely busy schedule and went to Whitewater State Park to take care of the fox snake at the nature center (re-reading the blog https://bethanybenike.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/beauty-beyond-the-skin/ to refresh your memory and/or more details on the fox snake might be helpful). The option to ask the naturalist at the park to take care of the snake was available, indeed when I called her the day before to let her know I was coming the next morning, she asked if I’d rather have her take care of it this time around since I was so busy. My mom and I agreed that I needed a break and a few hours to myself, so I declined the naturalist’s offer. There was one other reason for my desire to visit Whitewater besides these; a month before I had been down to take care of the snake and while there walked along the river and observed beaver signs, I had a great desire to return to spend more time taking in these signs and to take photos. Taking a walk along a river soaking in the beauty of nature and spending sometime on my photography was reason enough to visit the park, especially since these are two joys I haven’t taken much time for this year, not even my short morning walks along the road. In fact, they aren’t just hobbies I enjoy, rather necessities I must partake in nearly daily for the health and contentedness of my soul and spirit. (Whitewater State Park is a piece of my heart, I haven’t really hiked there even once this year though I’ve been there to take care of the snake at least twice a month.)
Eager to get to the park, I left a few minutes before 9:00 am. How utterly refreshing and relaxing it was to sit down in the nature center (park office) and watch the birds at the feeders while the frozen mice for the fox snake thawed. Between the mice thawing and putting them in the cage and giving the snake about half an hour to eat if it was hungry, I worked on writing around observing the activity at the bird feeders. The snake wasn’t interested in food but rather wanted to be held, a brief escape from its cage. Holding the snake was therapeutic, it slithered under my arm, wrapping itself close to my body core for warmth most likely.
With the snake taken care of, I left the nature center for the outdoors, nature itself. I set out on the Discovery Loop Trail, a very short trail near the nature center and aptly named for I did discover beauty, peace, and momentary rest for the soul on the brief walk. Squirrels and birds chattered in the trees above me. The grassy trail was still a lush green winding along the trees. Down a set of wooden stairs that blended into the scene around it. A few feet from the bottom step was a branch of the Whitewater River. There it was my discovering began. No medicine, therapy or cathedral compares to a moving, living river in its ability to soothe, comfort, heal, and refresh a person in almost every way possible (except maybe physically), and brings a person to worship, not the river, but the awesome Creator that charted its course. “Be still and know, I AM God. Let the sweet music of a river flowing over rocks bring you peace and soothe your weary soul and downcast spirit.” – Not a voice or even a whisper, but a deep knowing inside my heart as I suddenly felt burdens lifted from me in that quiet place. In that moment, the river was a gift to me from God – I was loved, deeply cared for, the provision of the river for comfort spoke this to my heart. To say it was rushing wouldn’t be quite accurate, moving, yes, for it wasn’t moving even half as fast as the Zumbro River, but was going along at a quicker pace than some other rivers. I was mesmerized by its waters flowing over rocks, creating a gentle murmur instead of a roar. The sound washed over me, connecting me to the river as it moved past on its journey to the Mississippi. The connection refreshed my soul and lifted my spirit. I could have, and perhaps needed to, spend hours with the river.
My discovering was still taking place, however, beyond the healing power of the river itself. Once attuned to the river habitat, I reveled in more around it as I walked. Beaver slides cut deep into the high river bank, a pathway from the river to the trees high up on the bank and back again. It was hard to make out, but it appeared there were fresh tracks in the mud. My eyes moved from the slides on my right, further up the bank on my left to the trees. All that was left of one tree was a stump, the top chewed in a conical shape. Slivers of bark, and flesh lay at its base, the cut seeming quite fresh. Elated by this discovery, I continued to observe the trees. Several feet ahead of me were a couple of trees that still stood, though beavers had started to work on them. On one the bark was stripped off for a few feet all the way around. Another near it had only a small spot where the bark was chewed away. Then even higher on the bank than I thought a beaver would go, I spied a tree that had been gnawed almost completely through, only a few more inches to go before it’s felled and taken to the river to be transported to the lodge and added to the food cache or used to mend the dam for winter. I observed several more trees in these various states of progress. I walked up to each one to observe closer. Beavers are truly awe inspiring creatures; I just am filled with wonder. A desire to hike the Park further in hopes of seeing one or at least discovering their lodge and dam filled me. However, it was time to follow a trail back to the nature center to head home. I had no desire to leave, and pulled myself away from the riverside with great difficulty.