Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lake Effect Faith

It might be a better story had my walk to the lake been planned.

Instead, I made it to the bottom of the hill - the first of 4 streets I’d walk to make the moderate loop through the neighborhood I’d planned - and felt miserable. The muscle just lateral to my right shin cramped hard enough to make me limp and I felt as if I could easily throw up if such behavior was permitted from my body. Chienne was being a brat, venturing far into people’s yards and ignoring my commands to walk.

“We’ll go to the lake.” I told her. “Not because you deserve it - you’ve been a bad dog - but because that’s the only place there is for me to rest.”

My theory, I decided as we made our way across the street and into the park, is that my ankle healed wrong after the sprain. Walking down the hills stresses those muscles that are slightly weird and then I cramp to the point of whimpering as I finish my walk around corners and up hills. The path to the lake is relatively flat and Chienne began her characteristic ‘I’m going to the lake!’ prance when she realized our destination.

There are enough curves and small changes in elevation throughout the road that I can’t see the water until I’m nearly upon it. At that point, the road sweeps sharply to the right so I can’t yet see the parking lot. There is instead a tree with tiny leaves of vivid red on that corner. The forest on the right has stayed mostly green, but there are pale blue berries on some of the evergreens and a gradient of shades exist on the deciduous varieties that stubbornly cling to their chloroform. The lake peeks out from between the wooded areas and I was pleased to see that it was calm. We’d left the house just after 8 and I didn’t know if boats would be buzzing around in the water yet.

There were three trucks and a car in the lot and I saw only two boats on the water near my section of shore. I pulled Chienne to the left, heeding the honking warnings offered by the large creatures with brown feathers and orange bills. I had to move toward them a bit - causing much fluffing of feathers and raising of voices - to find a place to sit. Once I did, I rubbed at my right leg, trying to ease the muscles there.

The sun was warm on my back and the breeze cool on my face. I wrapped my unzipped sweatshirt around me a bit tighter and smiled at the small black birds with bright white bills as they made noises that reminded me of Chienne’s squeaky toys. The bobbed along the top of the water not too far from shore and paddled their way slowly from my right to my left. I forgot to count them, but I’d estimate their flock to consist of between five and ten fowl.

I hadn’t taken my camera since this trip was not part of my Sunday list of things to do. Plus, it’s a rather bulky device when compared to other digital cameras and my pockets already contained a plastic bag and a wad of tissues. I wished to take a picture - or perhaps record a snippet of video - when I saw a rock just offshore. It lay flat, worn smooth as far as I could tell, and the water rippled around it in a way I doubt I can describe in words.

Perhaps the far side of the rock was slightly higher than the rest because the water would separate around it, moving to each side. Then the opposing waves would lap together, engulfing the stone for a moment before receding in several ripples that caught the sunlight and scattered it in various directions. I watched the waves move toward the rock, separate into two halves, cover the gray surface with a thin layer of water, then proceed gently toward the shore. It was nearly hypnotic, sitting there in the quiet morning, watching the water move around that single rock.

I remembered I’d meant to pray. As I was trying to distract myself from the cramp in my leg, hobbling down the path toward the lake, I decided it was fine to spend some time sitting on the shore. It was still early and I really did want to rest a bit, though plopping down on someone’s front curb held little appeal. It’s pretty at the lake, I told myself, and Chienne enjoys it a great deal. The walk isn’t so long as to be impossible, but it is farther than I typically go. But, I rationalized, if one breaks it up into two parts, it’s not really so bad at all. Plus, I decided, I could multi-task and offer a few prayers while I rest my sore muscle.

So I folded my hands around the handle of the leash, laced my fingers together, and continued to watch my rock as I said good morning to God. I want Friend’s mother to get well, I told him. I’d like for us all to be well and if we can’t do that, then I suppose I’d like us to feel strong and peaceful as we battle through our turmoils. I drifted a bit, watching the water continue to move in. I thought of Pastor and my family and other people I love. I thought of work and patients who died and spared a moment to request my upcoming interview go as it was meant to. I apologized for being distant - I’m not really sure why I am, but I recognize the problem.

Chienne began to tug at the leash several minutes later as she grew more determined to respond to the birds who were honking at her. I sighed and rose from the grassy ledge that had formed my seat and tugged her away. It’s a shame that my peaceful time at the lake must disturb the birds’ morning, I thought. That something good for me often takes away from the pleasure of others. But we started back toward home, moving away from the lake and toward the sun.

I was left to consider how much I enjoy the lake - watching the water and being still for several moments before I start my day in earnest. The last time we went is the only walk in recent memory that found my leg feeling healthy upon my coming through the front door of my house. My body requires a rest right now if I want to exercise without excessive pain. Yet I don’t allow it one except on rare occasions that I decide I can wander all the way to the water.

I’m doing this wrong, I told God as I moved rather rapidly up the hill toward home, passing the houses easily as Chienne trotted along ahead of me. Faith should bring hope and happiness and I find I have little of either lately. Instead of slowing down and addressing the problem, I push forward and cope with the pain as I wait for days to pass and something to change when all along I believe You have the power to change it. I think I’m angry that You allowed Mom to get so sick. I’m hurt that You won’t send a man to love me. I look to the future with this resignation of facing problems and pain rather than bright optimism that I can make life better and do some good here.

I finished the walk up the hill and moved up the driveway, unsurprised when my leg felt fine and panting a little from the strong strides that carried me home. I avoid taking the same routes when we walk each morning, not wanting to get bored. Yet I fail to enjoy the time outside when I’m irritated with the dog and my leg is consumed with pain. I believe I’ll try a path that brings me to the water each day - it took us only 45 minutes to complete our journey this morning - and see if I can’t make use of the water lapping over that rock, spending some time in prayer and feeling stronger as I move back up that hill toward home.


Estrella said...

Your descriptions of your surroundings were exquisite ... I could almost imagine myself there. Prayer for me is hard; I struggle with being consistent about taking time to pray ... and I'm wary that I may not like how He decides to answer me ... I hope you continue to feel as inspired as you were on the morning you wrote this.

ppb said...

It sounds to me like chienne is your spiritual director!

post-doc said...

Thank you, Estrella. The lake is really lovely - it's easy for me to put words together in my head while I'm there.

She's a good girl sometimes, but I fear my spiritual director is plotting to get to the pretty birds down there. :)

UpsizeThis said...

I'm not trying to change your beliefs, because I am truly glad that there are people who believe in God. But have you considered reading some of the teachings of Buddhism. Don't worry, there's no deity involved, so no breaking the first commandment.

But there are some truly valuable insights on desires, attachment and fears. It's by truly analysing ourselves beyond a superficial level, that we can find peace and happiness.

Many well wishes.

Anonymous said...

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