Streams are good medicine for the soul. Something about all that extravagant life and motion, ever changing, but ever the same. There is no situation that spending time by running water does not improve. If you are already joyful, stream-time adds calm to your joy. If you've got the blues, sitting by a stream lifts you up. Recently, lost in worry for a loved one, I fled to my creek for solace.
Except, my stream has been dry now, month after parched month, from our long California drought. No fish returning to spawn. No sign of beavers, or blue herons, turtles or raccoons. No crawdads, water skippers, or sparkling dragonflies. Only dry leaves rattling over dry stones. My heart aches for my stream. My heart aches for my loved one. Trudging over this desolate path, I am dogged by fearful questions:
How can I help my cherished one? How will the wild creatures survive this long, harsh stretch, with nowhere to find food, or get a drink? Will the steelhead ever return to their native homeland? Where is the promise of my cup, or my stream, overflowing?
I plod for a long while, trudging over cracked mud and dry, grey stones, until something stops me in my tracks. A peace sign, large enough for a whole family to take refuge in, built from white rocks, gleaming against the brown and grey. I step into its circle. I ponder the mystery of the artist. What drove him or her deep into this bleak, brushy stream-bed to build an alter of peace? I stand in wonder for a long while. The fear I've been harboring flaps its wings, and lifts off, heavy and ungainly as a great blue heron. I feel like I can breathe again.
Each stream tells a thousand stories. Stories of floods and droughts, earthquakes and bulldozers, stories of lives it nourishes, and lives of those who visit its shores. This is a story of a woman seeking refuge from fear, and of an unknown artist/warrior, fighting off the darkness, and offering peace. The two stories weave together, making a new story, a new kind of music.
All streams make music-- bass notes of roaring and crashing, silvery notes of water slipping over stone. But today, I understand that, even when streams run dry, there is music. Birds call out. Wind rattles dry leaves. And in between, there are the silent notes, holy preludes to new songs waiting in the wings.
I return home uplifted, knowing the rains will return, and my stream will flow once more. The fish will find their way home. Much later, I learn that the peace sign was created by the very loved one that propelled me, fearful and fraught, to the stream in the first place. I don't let on how astonished I am, but something light, like glittering dragonfly wings, dances across my heart. Wonder and thanksgiving overflowing. My loved one has discovered the secret: streams are good medicine.
This drought could last 100 years, or it could end, with the rain predicted later this week. Stream songs are always changing, and always unique, but the underlying riffs stay the same: Be still. Pay attention. There is so much you don’t yet understand.
Welcome to Streamriffs.com, a place for fellow creek- walkers and nature lovers. Lori Fisher Peelen lives in California with her family.