We are water, we flow and we flow
I feel you pour in through every inch of my soul
I really must tell you this, baby before you go
We are water, we flow and we flow –Patty Griffin
For most of the summer the brook was dry and empty as a root cellar. There are two arms of the Bicknell Brook Trail: one tracks north up through sections littered with beaver activity. Trees gnawed to dainty pencil points balance precariously. Great heaps of sticks, sheered smooth as bone, along with logs and mounds of leaves hard packed together with mud form dams. At certain points the brook gives way to areas of marsh before curving off away from the water into the woods where it forms a loop. The south part of the trail winds down through a series of waterfalls and shallow pools to eventually empty out into a small lake. I’ve easily hiked both stretches of the short trail hundred times; it is one of my favorite places to spend time with no shortage of Instagram eye candy and places to pause letting the quiet spoon you.
A sizable pond feeds the trail from its north section, but, like everything else, it’s hardly immune to drought. The gorgeous summer sunshine gave us long beach days and parched gardens. Little by little the water in the brook had slowed to a trickle in places or else settled heavily among the rocks. Even the beaver dams looked to be in the throes of struggle, mud that was once a rich, earthy black now a shade of grey like boiled meat. “You should really see it when the water’s rushing and roiling all over the place,” I told a friend out hiking with me one day. “It’s pretty amazing.” She smiled and nodded. “Really,” I said again, not sure why I felt compelled to defend what hardly needed my pathetic advocacy. “It’s not supposed to be like this.”
Later I thought about what I said. Not supposed to be like this. Weirdo, my brain hissed. What the hell does that even mean? It meant either my control issues had officially reached peak cringeyness or that maybe I was having one of those brushes with the bigger architecture. As I remarked to a friend of mine once: “With me, a cigar is never just a cigar.”
When the brook is rolling in full force, it is not only unstoppable, but undeniable. The water’s roar can be heard for more than a quarter mile down the road from the trail’s entrance. Beaver dams be damned. The water plows over those meticulously built thatches of sticks and leaves as if they were constructed out of little more than spit and newspaper. Years of hard travel have turned the rocks into slick, smooth plains. One summer a nor’easter whipped through the region and the water ran so high, so hard, and so fast that it violently churned the silt, turning the water copper in places. Fierce. Beautiful. Badass.
It’s not supposed to be like this.
I’m not supposed to be like this.
Even mentally, that sounded fifteen shades of bananas and embarrassing. Then again, the truth usually is.
For a while now I’ve felt too much like the empty brook, defined by what I am not instead of staking claims about what I am. I deserve to take up space. There’s a lot of chatter telling us to rein it in, to avoid being “too much,” to fit in—into what, I often wonder. What’s the shape of existence you can tolerate: a box? A circle? A fancy trapezoid? And when the contours press too tightly, will you make yourself a little smaller, a little tidier? Good job, they’ll say. She really stayed inside that narrow circle like a boss. Just kidding. No one is saying that. Ever. Those kudos are your fantasy, the reward you give yourself for believing in limits that someone else imposed on you, for not making too much noise or any noise, for hastening your own disappearance.
I’ve collected too many of those fake gold stars while pushing against the sides of the cage a bit harder. They say it only takes twelve inches of moving water to carry a car away. A car, a cage, a fancy trapezoid weighted with fears—should hardly be a match for this force of nature.
Recently I traveled to California for a work-related trip. I watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. I stared at the waves coming in and out like breaths. The tide doesn’t wait for someone to give it permission to move. No one tells the ocean to keep it tight, to tuck it in, to settle down. No one shames the sea for being too vast or too much. No one that lived to tell the tale anyway.
We have to participate relentlessly in our existence. We matter, every single one of us. That is the fuel that propels us to be fully here, to let ourselves be seen and to see and acknowledge each other in the process.
The brook is full from fall rains. It is alive with the joyful crash of water that feels primal as it overruns fallen logs and pours itself into the spaces that, only weeks before, were hollow pockets. The water seems to find these places easily, not just pulled by the physics of momentum, but it seeks them out as if to say, “I am undeniable and so are you.”