This I Believe

Doug - Sacramento, California
Entered on September 4, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe in the healing powers of nature, specifically in the healing powers of the South Fork of the American River.

Without a breath, without a word of goodbye, my lover of two years disappeared from my life. At first I worried that something had happened to her. A car accident. A kidnapping. Something. But I found out later that she was all right. She was safe. For some reason, she had simply decided to leave. Her last words: “I will call you when I get off work.” Then began this silence.

Her sudden absence from my life damaged my soul, my sense of belief in the words we had given over to each other in quiet intimacy. We had shared our lives together in solitude with nature, hiking trails all around the three forks of the American River. These lands of the foothills kept us protected from the madness of the city, the deceitful promises of consumer culture. Here, we found our own simplicity.

When the house I was renting in Cool was sold, I moved down into Sacramento. Bought a house in Oak Park. Uprooted, I became a foreigner to myself. The way people used words in the city corrupted my way of seeing. Each day I became more confused and began to doubt words. City buildings blinded me and made it nearly impossible for me to remember having faith. It was as if I could no longer access my desires. The things that mattered most to me seemed to no longer have words. But each time this woman walked into my backyard she carried, in her eyes, our old spirit. Her body expressed the safety of the hills and of the river. The pure intention of the river lived in the careful way we touched each other.

Losing her broke my deepest connection to the honesty and trust that we had forged with nature. So I returned to the South Fork of the American to seek stillness. In Lotus, the river pulled me inside out. The movement of the currents, slow over my skin, rubbed into my bones in the same way that the river marks time in the rocks. The morning mist hugged the river. I was home. The world clear. Words became light and filled with joy. My tears that fell into the river were reborn as memories of those moments before her departure.

“Whatever is past,” Olga Broumas writes, “and has come to an end cannot be brought back by sorrow.” More than a baptism signifying a rebirth, this river and the rounded hills that it flows through is a prayer, one that is always forever present, waiting for me to return. When I look down into the river long enough, slowly enough, with enough care, it reveals this joy, this loving kindness that once we shared. I listen to the river until I am carried into the quiet, a place where forgetting becomes an other way for remembering.