We have Played this Game

[experiences – by ~burning woman~]

It is time. I walk to the edge of the River’s bank, take a deep breath then slowly step down into the water. The water is fast, the current noisy, hissing with the effort of carrying sand to some unchartered destination.


The water eddies around my legs and thighs. The current is very fast here, that’s what makes it so exciting and challenging. The water is cold but not numbing as a month ago, repelling and inviting all at once, I feel a desire arising in my heart, like wanting to abandon yourself to make love to a stranger you don’t really trust and who is much too old for you.

I tell myself I don’t mind the cold. I feel the sand eroding off the bank under my feet and suddenly I slide down into the water, slipping as much as three feet, down beyond my standing depth and thrust outward from shore. My heart skips a beat, maybe two, as I find myself facing the rushing, swirling surface of the murky water. I’m committed now, no turning back: my body is pulled away into the spinning whirls of colder waters. There is no swimming back to shore here. All I can do is follow along as the water spins me in an ever-widening circle, then sweeps me downstream.

I am alone here, it was always my choice. No one to throw a rope, or shoot out in a kayak to help me back. I swim slowly, carefully avoiding panic. After all, did I not seek this? Dream of it? I am in the River; I am one of her children, whether she acknowledges me or not. I acknowledge her and I’ve always loved her, even if I’ve never trusted her. She has her life, so much more awesome than mine, so much more significant. She flows off and down, to lose herself in he arms of her lover, the sea. All I am is a bit of flotsam, that’s all. Alive or dead, she will carry me until an eddy throws me upon a gravel bar, or into a pile of driftwood stuck in the trunk of a giant fallen cottonwood.

I have a life too, however. I have dreams and purpose. I have drive. I chose this encounter, not to challenge the power of the River, but my own silly kind of courage. I spin around, still filled with fear that the whirlpool will suck me under but I’m just far enough away from its center to drift, arms out, legs kicking slowly, trying to find traction. And I do. Suddenly I find myself moving in a chosen direction. I decide to aim for a spur of gravel far downstream where the current assumes a more predictable flow. I roll, front to back, one look at the serene blue of the sky and I know, once again, I am going to live.

We have played this game, the River and I, for a very long time. It’s not a competition, just a game. It is also a played-out allegory of one life lived outside the communal box. No “life jacket”; no safety net; no buddy system. Alone to face myself and grasp a fleeting taste of some vague remembrance of a primordial relationship with nature as a purely natural being unencumbered by societal mores, taboos, complications.

14 thoughts on “We have Played this Game

  1. jim-

    Comfortable making our own way in the world, no fanfare, no gimmicks, no grace by faith deferring personal responsibility, just us, me, you, or whoever has the fortitude to call their own shots and navigate the current. Very nicely written.

    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thank you Colette. I was born a scaredy-cat, afraid of everything. It early grade school I decided I did not want to live like that, so I began a step by step process of beating off every fear, one at a time. I learned to beat claustrophobia by crawling in tight crawl spaces under old buildings or in small culverts. I learned to look at “giant” spiders face to face. I taught myself to handle field mice (I still hate rats though!), then came heights. Walking along the edge of a railway trestle bridge, climbing a TV repeater tower under construction until the top swayed, and climbing the tallest trees in the neighbourhood, then jumping across from one to another. It would be years later before I conquered my (almost) last and most enduring fear: water. I just couldn’t let myself go under water, but finally I did it. I had to be alone and it was a purely mind thing: I’m doing this. I just wish that my “courage” could be expressed in more meaningful ways, like nursing in war conditions, or in refugee camps. But unless such horrors come here, that will not be possible, and the volunteer work I engage in doesn’t have life-threatening conditions… πŸ™‚ The one thing though, I’ve never done it for cheap thrills but only as a means to self-empowerment; to remind myself that there is much that is more important than mere physical survival.

      1. colettebytes

        What an inspiration. I have never thought of things that way before. I have survived fears, but facing them head on certainly adds strength and fortitude and is the better way. I conquered my fear of deep water in much the same way…I have even been white water rafting in churning waters rising way over my head. That was likely the most frightening and yet exhilarating thing I ever did.
        I am so glad you survived your ordeal. Sometimes, the weakest looking amongst us, turn out to be the most courageous people of all! 😊

      2. Sha'Tara Post author

        Thanks Colette. I’ve never done the white water thing although opportunities abound all around here, especially through the Fraser Canyon. Never could spare the time, or the money. A lot of the people I worked with used to do it, and loved it. There’s courage, and there’s daring. I have to see some “practical” purpose at the end of it and also I don’t want to do it with a crowd, or through organizations.

    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thanks for that comment, Frank. I only wish, as I’ve indicated to Colette, that my “bravery” could be applied in more meaningful circumstances. I’d go to Palestine in a heartbeat, for example, if I had the age, the skills, and the passport! Or wherever I could do the most good, safety be damned. With some 7.5 billions of us I think survival is greatly overrated. I don’t want to just be taking up space. Oh well, another month of volunteer construction beginning next week, so that will have to count, eh? I’m enjoying reading your own posts and interviews too, Frank.

  2. Lisa R. Palmer

    What a beautiful and profound journey, Sha’Tara!! And so eloquently shared that I was “with” you every moment, feeling both the power and powerlessness in that ride. My skin is even chilled from the cold, while my eyes embrace blue skies…

    Thank you for writing and sharing this… Thank you!

    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thanks Lisa, much thanks! I look back afterwards and say, “Why?” then I realize, over and over, that self empowerment comes incrementally and it takes many forms. I would prefer it to be utterly selfless but that doesn’t seem to be an option: we do what we do because of who we are, as individuals. When I give of myself or dare myself, it’s ultimately for me; to find myself, to discover what I can really do, or how I feel after engaging any act of kindness, generosity or self-sacrifice, in the same way I discover myself in forcing myself to consider my thoughts, and sometimes deeds, that are NOT compassionate by nature. When we face both of our natures; our Janus-faced personalities; and deliberately choose between them then we move, either forward or backward based on our previous set purpose and goals. For the seekers, the closer we come to the death doorway, the more important knowing our self becomes. This is when introspection becomes so important, when time to change becomes increasingly compressed.

      1. Lisa R. Palmer

        Yes… and it’s all become very relevant, and very pressing of late. It’s good to hear another voice in the wilderness, even from a great distance…

  3. ELLE

    So proud of you! Keep that bright optimism radiating for the rest of our days. We’ll all be okay. πŸ™‚

    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thanks, Elle, and I’ve sensed the same powerful, life-changing optimism in yourself also. Thanks for all your good words on your home blog!


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