Circle of Life


The nature of God is a circle of which the center is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere. Empedocles

Spring comes reluctantly to Northern Maine as the cold fingers of winter cling selfishly to the land before the relentless warmth of the sun forces her to retreat. Salmon Brook runs through our property and each spring, swelled with melted snow, it rushes with all the pent up energy of a horse long confined to a stall. It takes savage bites of the banks and seeks new territory to explore after its frozen winter imprisonment. It tumbles rocks and flings trees in its desire to flex its freedom and each year new channels are carved in its impatience to join up with bigger waters on their inevitable rush to the sea.

I eagerly await the moment when the snow melts enough for me to get to the brook’s edge to see what changes have been wrought by the spring runoff. Just across from where we have our firepit a small island splits the brook and some years the water cuts a channel towards the front of the island. These are the years that taking a nap in the hammock are accompanied by the giggling of the water as it tickles over the rocks nearby. Other years the brook jumps to the backside of the island and it creates a nice swimming hole to cool off in the hot summer months.

This week I decided to put on my waders and walk through the water to the island and try to determine if the brook has made up its mind which way it will go this year. I could see a new gravel bar along the side of the brook and uprooted trees were bridging another section. I thought about how life is like this brook. When we are young we are sure of our path and we rush headlong toward our goals. In our single minded need for success and happiness we fling obstacles out of our path without regard to where they will land. We don’t look back to see what damage we’ve done, focusing only on our efforts to reach our destinations.

As we progress in life some of the obstacles throw us into a different direction. Births, deaths, jobs, illnesses cut new channels into our path and take us into unplanned and uncharted territory. Just as the flow of the brook begins to slow as the summer months sap its strength and it can no longer manhandle boulders and impediments we begin to slow down as the years go by. We figure out that obstacles can be overcome by reason and ingenuity. As we tire we learn to value not the achievement at the end of our journey but the journey itself. We stop more often to enjoy the peace of the still pools and the beauty of the overhanging branches and wildflowers along the way.

As fall approaches the brook slows to a trickle, reluctant to rest on winter’s cold breast. As we approach our final destination we value each day more and more. And like the last of the summer wine, life becomes sweeter because it is the last leg of our journey. We remember with fondness when we galloped through life kicking up our heels with the sheer joy of living. We remember the boulders and limbs along the way that threatened to derail us and we marvel at our resilience to withstand the bruises and cuts they inflicted to emerge stronger and more assured.

As I near the last part of life’s journey I still have a kick or two left in me. I am no longer afraid to take a new path because experience has taught me that there is always something wonderful waiting round the bend. I don’t fret if I want to spend a day in contemplation and rest because those are the times when the deep pools can be explored and long hidden memories return and we embrace as old friends. Sometimes I wonder why we can’t have the insights we gather as we age when we have the exuberance of youth to enjoy them. But it is the journey of life that weaves all our joys, pain, laughter and tears together into the complete masterpiece God intended.  This knowledge reassures me that death is not to be feared, it is simply the end of the journey we embarked on the minute we drew our first breaths. When our journey is ended we will wake refreshed into the warm, loving arms of our Lord; reborn into the light, just as the brook wakes up each spring, for life is a never ending circle of birth and death, sleep and renewal.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;

A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. Ecclesiastes 3