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Reflections On The Water

“I had to judge where I was headed from where I had been, an acquired perception which has served me well – for the goals of my life, and especially my work, haven’t always been visible points of light on a shore the looms in front of me.  They are fixed in my imagination, shrouded and indistinct, and I detect them best when my eyes are closed.  All too often I am forced to move toward then backward, like a boy in a rowboat, guiding myself by a cultivated inner sense of direction which tells me I’m on course, tending toward the place I want to be.”

First You Have To Row A Little Boat by Richard Bode (1)

Several years ago we traveled to Chamberlain, South Dakota to spend the Easter holiday with my spouses’ grandmother.  My sister-in-law and family, my mother-in-law and a nephew made the trip as well from Wyoming.  My brother-in-law pulled his boat behind so we could enjoy a little fishing on the Missouri River. 

On Saturday, what turned out to be the coldest day of our stay, several of us decided to launch the boat for a day of fishing amid the wind and cold.  Although I looked forward to being on the water, I decided not to fish, allowing my son, his uncle, and cousin to catch the bounty for the evening dinner.  I chose to use the time to take in the scenery, read a bit, and simply ‘be’ in the moment.

It turned out to be a much colder day than I had anticipated and after reading only the preface and the first chapter of a new book, I succumbed to the cold and spent the remainder of the day huddled to keep warm.  During the day I remembered a small book I had read several years ago written by Richard Bode about his early experiences learning to sail and the life lessons it had taught him.  Although not being a sailor myself, nor being in a rowboat, I found his reflections becoming my own.

We found a cove that offered a slight reprieve from the wind and a promising bottom contouring for attracting the walleye fish my brother-in-law was seeking.  For several hours we would let the boat drift through the fishing area, then motor back to where we started.  As the boat drifted, it had a calming effect with the sound of water gently lapping against the sides of the boat as it gently rocked in rhythm with the waves.  Like the boat, I too began to allow my thoughts to drift about where I had been and where I was going.

Bode contends that as we move forward in life we have the ability to develop an inner sense of direction that can be used to keep us on the course we have set for our lives.  It is not seeing what riches we have amassed or the way we look on the outside that is our guide or benchmark, but the intangibles that we feel. 

If you have ever rowed a small boat before to a specific destination, you can more easily identify with his metaphor.  With your back facing the direction you are headed and your front looking at where you have been, you sense or feel the adjustments that are needed to stay the course.  So it is with the course your soul would have you take.  Use the quiet time in your life as an opportunity to reflect on where you have been compared to your true course, and then use your inner sense of direction to make needed adjustments.

With respect, acceptance, and love,

R.D. Olson

© R.D. Olson and Awaken The Soul, 2016; Edited by J.E. Olson

(1) First You Have To Row A Little Boat: Reflections on Life & Living by Richard Bode; Copyright 1993; Warner Books, Inc.