Old Wise Woman found herself hip deep in the waters of the river. She stood with her eyes closed, her face turned to the sun that warmed her skin. Her hair was down, the ends trailing in the water, being gently tugged on by the surface currents. She could feel the river itself reach out to her, wrap about her legs, curious who this creature was who had come into the water so unlike the people of today.
The river touched Old Woman… curious, its normal apathy towards people traded for curiosity.
“Who are you?” River asked the old woman.
Old Woman paused and while her name was just upon her lips, it had been too long and was too foreign now. She smiled at the young river and let her hands rest on its surface. Opening her palms, she let the energy tell the river of things far more powerful and meaningful than a name.
River was still for a moment.
“I do not believe you,” the river said. “The people I know now are like driftwood. They do not whisper to me, they do not respect me. They try to control me; they poison me as they flood me over the plains where the sun scorches and winds carry away my strength. Once, men respected me. They called on me for healing and wisdom, and I gave it to the few who could hear me; but the offerings have gone, the chanting is silent, the feathers have fallen from the braids of the Little Ones I once was so pleased to know.
You are not more. You are no different, you are just another. I should pull you under and let the world above be no more for you. I should eat you.”
“Be calm Young Waters,” she told the river and smiled at him like a grandmother to a child who is distressed. “Let not your anger and hurt or your fear erode your banks or muddy your springs. Dance with me a bit. Let me be with you; let me offer you my love and respect.”
River hesitated with the undertow about to be sent to sweep Old Woman away. River slowly grew still about Old Woman. From her came love, awe, a generosity and power like River had never seen, had never felt. Not even the great Wise Ones who lived up on the banks in the winters past had such presence.
Old Woman could feel the energy of life in the bits of the vegetation that touched against her legs, that came to entwine with her fingers, to offer life; to touch life. She could feel the play of sun on the water’s surface, as well as its energies, dancing with every molecule of the river itself.
She reached out her energy to touch the fish that hid under the far tall bank, to calm the darting minnows in the shallows, to light upon the craw fish, tiny flicking freshwater shrimp, the darting water skippers and every type of little creature that lived in the water; and she loved them, delighted in them, found joy in them and for her touch they stopped in all their actions and looked at her, fully aware of all things for one moment.
Her whispers roused a deeper mind, an ancient mind. It touched upon Old Woman and gave her love, reminded her of herself even beyond what she knew at the moment. Tears of joy, of peace, escaped her closed eyes and sparkled with the energy of the sun.
“Who are you?” River asked again, but this time she asked with hope and peace
“I am one who danced with rivers before, but not this one. You are very young compared to the rivers I knew when I lived. I have been mother, grandmother, and mother again so many times all the children about me were of me. I walked a world where creatures spoke to me, trees were teachers, the rivers… the old rivers, my lovers.”
“There is sadness when you say that? Do you long for the old rivers?”
“No. The earth changes, the land shifts – meets, creates mountains and new rivers, new oceans, new life… but my moment awake here is about done and she who I am now cannot whisper to you as I do, for this world is so full of distractions and dark energies that I doubt any of this age can.
Once, not so long ago you swept her under, you took her breath, and she had yet so much to do. She was pulled from your waters and given her life back, but when she stands in your currents, she feels only the poisons that darken your waters, the diversion of your strength for crude farming practices, the detachment so many have from the sacredness of all rivers. It saddens her and she stands with grief. She does not blame you or fear you as you might think, but knows your pain for that touch upon her.”
River was quiet.
“Will she recall you?”
Old Woman laughed.
“How can she not? She is me and I am her. Oh yes, she will recall her past and she will seek to touch upon it and feel healed for many past lives, should she be able to. But for now, one step at a time.” And Old Woman faded into the sounds of the traffic over the bridge, the chatter of swimmers on the bank, cows complaining in a nearby field.
“I know who you are,” River whispered to me.
“Who am I?” I asked River, feeling so small and sad, so blind and weak after being aware of what it might be to be a truly wise and empowered woman.
“You,” River said with insight and amusement, “are Old River Woman.” With that the river swirled, warm waters became cold, life giving orbs became globs of slime moss, fish vanished into the glare of the sun and deep into the muddy waters. I turned, I walked back, sad to let go of the old woman and the river.
“What took you so long?” I was asked.
“I was listening to myself talk to the river,” I said. He wouldn’t understand. He had pulled me from the river once before and he did so now as well.
Writing: Angela MacDonald
Photos: Carol Carnicom – Quiet Walk Photography