Before my move to Midland, I took one last walk south along the railroad tracks out of Smithton toward Jacob’s Creek. The summer temperatures had fallen, but the air was still muggy and warm. I went to an opening along the bank where people launch kayaks and canoes to drift along the Youghiogheny River. I have sat there before watching the water flow by, but the log I had used before to sit comfortably was nowhere to be seen. Doubtless some camper tossed it onto a fire not knowing they were depriving me of my resting place.
So, I wandered along the fishermans’ trail, tossing branches and stones into the water. Unable to find a place to sit and rest in solitude, I grew restless and unable to allow my mind to wander unfettered. I headed back along the road.
I soon came upon an old, partially-rotted piece of wooden guard rail post. Still close enough to the water, I tossed the semi-log in. It hit the surface with a low plomp, sank, and quickly resurfaced. In no time, bulky block of wood sped along with the river.
Now walking with the current, I found that I could easily keep pace with the floating wood. With its large exposed surface, it reminded me of a Mark Twain raft drifting along the mighty Mississippi. I started gaining ground and stayed paces ahead as I walked. Occasionally a car would pass by, forcing me to hug the guard rail and check up on my small ark.
Watching the steady progress, I thought of my kids as they grew and went off into the world. Had I wanted to, or really needed to, I could have lumbered down the bank and jumped in to retrieve my child from the current. But in reality, I was consigned to watching its inevitable journey, knowing that I had provided the initial impetus and castoff.
As the foliage grew taller, I only caught fleeting sight of the floating log until the weeds grew too high. At the same time, the road started to dip slowly away from the water, and I knew that ever a herculean effort would not rejoin us again. I began to imagine its future course down the river, knowing that I could do nothing to influence its path significantly.
Returning home, I couldn’t help but think of all the times in our lives that we give birth to activities and ideas and how soon they develop lives of their own, quickly moving out of our control. When theologians talk about the cycle of birth and death, they often only include consideration of salvation of the individual or the progress of the soul along the path of reincarnation.
But, in fact, our lives abound with little births, giving rise to lives – some fleeting and others carrying on long after our own demise. More often than not, we are completely unaware of our continual creations and the impact they have on others. Perhaps a respect for the interdependent web of all existence begins with such awareness.