The Lesson


Jill is a big hearted woman, too much so. She has a knack for finding a lost cause and devoting herself to it until she gets used up and spit out. The universe gave her a brilliant lesson in this pattern as we went floating down the river last week.

There was a bee in the current, who was more dead than alive. Jill spotted him immediately, and began devising ways to enact a rescue. She decided a leaf could make a good life raft, so I paddled over, snatched a dogwood leaf from a gentle eddy and gave it to her. Jill placed him on top, but he had other ideas. He might have been a suicidal little guy cause he kept working to get back in the water. I was eager to continue our float but Jill had abandoned the idea and was now completely obsessed with saving the life of the bee.

Here is the way Jill saw it:

“He clung tenaciously to the stem of his life raft, waterlogged and exhausted. I was slightly unnerved, paddling to shore against the current, belly flop style with one hand, while holding a leaf with a very possibly irate bee in the other. I made it to shore and because it was an extremely hot day, searched the bank for the perfect spot to deposit him. I gently placed him in the shade of a cool river rock, so as not to scorch his little bee feet. Yes, I actually went that far. I know.

Karen felt the need to point out, in an amused sort of way, that my behavior with the bee was strangely reminiscent of my behavior with men. I find them drowning, struggling and then I, as rescuer, spring into action. Not only do I make the save, but I make the save my life’s work. We giggled at the analogy, but I had to agree. How many men have I gone out on a limb for at my own peril?  

The bee was now safely deposited in the shade of the river bank, so I continued the float. I was relieved as I basked in the hot sun, the cold water and the knowledge that I had done a wonderful deed. But not for long. Barely 15 minutes had passed before another bee spotted me, singled me out in that vast landscape, and out of the hundreds of people who lined the shore, landed and plunged his stinger deep inside my arm!  

Karen roared with laughter at the irony of it, because the story always ends the same! But I learned a valuable lesson, so the next pathetic creature that floats my way, be it animal, mineral, vegetable, or cute guy, I will look into the depths of my heart, and find that cold spot that I know must be in there somewhere, suck it up, turn a blind eye, and for once in my life, paddle by and save myself. Sometimes, the life worth saving just might be my own.’

Jill is currently looking for work in the court system where her desire to serve can be directed towards a more positive outcome. Let’s wish her well.


hammock by water

Arid is not a word I use much in writing. That word belongs to places like San Diego, Texas and Arizona. My expressions are full of words that drip and hold moisture. Just the mention of Oregon has people looking for umbrellas, rain boots and fleece jackets. But not today.

Today children play in the fountains – air conditioners are turned up. The highway is full of trailered boats and the vacation minded. I love it! The sun hits the hammock every morning between 10 and 10.30, so I stop whatever I am doing, strip down and soak warmth into my bones. My face has turned a chocolate brown making my white hair and blue eyes pronounced. I feel healthy again and whole. I greet and celebrate the sun as fully as my neighbor repels it by pulling her shades and planting hawthorne trees.

I’ve gone rafting on the Sandy River every summer for the past 36 years, but this year, I wonder if I’ll make it. I have no visiting granddaughters to entertain, no husband to float with and friends with occupied schedules. I’ll travel out of state during prime rafting weeks and have promised John – my marketing guy – that I will hold up my end when I return.

This summer feels different, quiet and withdrawn, a time for regeneration and slowing down to regroup. My need for introspection asks for patience.

Late afternoon light streams through the front window in amber shafts, spilling over my writing pad. I’m held in an almost perfect moment. Preludes enhance the mood like black stones in a Zen garden. A single grace note on a piano keyboard dancing near the ceiling is sweet beyond words, sweet beyond imagining.

Writing is my salvation and faith. I feel relief as words spill out of me and land safely on the page, ready to take a life of their own. I dress them up like children who are going off into the world without me. I give them my best efforts so they will journey well. These words are not scholarly, information driven, political or unique. It is my heart that speaks. I write letters to undiscovered friends, sending them off like paper boats on a river, saying hello to people I have yet to meet.