When we are young, we often times feel fearless and invincible.
I'm not sure if many of you have been to Calgary but when I was around nine years old we moved to Calgary as my Mum got offered a really great position with an oil company there. We moved to a house (a haunted house but that's a story for another time) in Sunnyside. It was a big old grey house with all the cricks and creeks you would expect of a house that age. My school was within walking distance and the neighborhood was a quiet one. I liked it there.
Part of the appeal for me was that we were fairly close to the Bow River. I love living close to water. Belleville walks along the waterfront trail are one of my favorite things about living here. I have always found the water calming. When I am sad or confused or just need to feel comforted, or if I am trying to work something out or find a new avenue to explore, I head to the water or have a long soak in a hot bath.
My Mum used to get some pretty terrible panic attacks when I was going up and often headaches would follow. I got this idea to take my tape recorder (who remembers those?) and I would walk down to the Bow River and record the sound of the water. I am a pretty deep thinker and it was no different when I was a child. I would lay in bed worrying about my Mum and others and try to think of ways I could bring happiness into their lives. It didn't work out most of the time but now that I am older, I don't think that was me not doing the right things, I think it was them not being able to see past their own troubles. Regardless, I tried.
I brought the tape recorder down to the water and then brought the recording of the water back home with me. The next time my Mum was having trouble sleeping, I brought the tape recorder into her dark room along with a cool cloth for her head and I pushed play. The soothing sounds of the river filled the room and allowed us both to relax together.
I think that the time I spent recording this water, and the fact that it seemed to work out in helping my Mum, gave me a sense that the river and I had a deep connection. I felt it was on my side and that we were a team. This was a false sense of security. I thought we were one and the same and working together and I soon found out that I was just a little girl and IT was a raging monster.
The bridge that you can see way far back in the above image is a long walking distance to where we lived. I walked that bridge many times but for some reason, on this one day that I was spending with a little girlfriend of mine, that seemed like a big waste of time. We wanted to go somewhere on the other side of the river and the time it would take for us to walk all the way down to that bridge only to have to walk all the way down to where we were on the other side, directly across from us on the other shore, seemed... silly.
You can also see in the image above how a child would see that the water seemed shallow and calm and add that onto the fact that I felt that the river and I were a team and you have a recipe for disaster.
So, my friend and I decided that we were simply going to walk straight across the river to save time and not worry about walking all the way to the bridge. (Sorry Mum. If you are reading this now, I apologize and am very grateful that we have had all these years together after this day that you most likely did not even know about.)
We are going to call my friend Felicity simply because I can't remember her name and Felicity means Luck and Good Fortune and we surely had that on our side on this day.
Felicity and I began to venture out and it was going swimmingly well until we got to what seemed the middle of the river. Now I honestly believe that at the time of year we decided to cross the river, it was low. It looked, from the shoreline, that you could see the rocks all the way across. This however turned out to be a falsehood.
By the time we got to what seemed to be the half way point, we were in deep shit! Sorry to use that term but there's no getting around it. The water was just past our knees, maybe almost to our crotch area, and the current below the calm surface was a roaring swirl of madness. It was gripping and it was even difficult to lift your foot to take the next step forward with any real sense of security. You could feel the water grabbing at you at every instant that you shifted your weight to make any move. I remember distinctly looking back to the shore from where we came thinking that maybe we should turn back. But it was too late for that. Either way we went it was going to be life risking and there was no way to turn back the time and make a better choice and walk to the bridge.
If you have ever been in a situation where you knew you had made a really bad decision you know the fear that was gripping my heart when I looked forward to see my little friend in front of my struggling the same as I was. To see that we had to get moving or we were surely going to be taken by the rapids and end up God knows where was terrifying. I started to yell at Felicity, who was in front of me, "MOVE!!! We have to get moving!" Her scream back at me could barley be heard over the rushing of blood through my veins caused by the adrenaline surging through me. "I CAN'T!" she screamed! "I can't move my feet! I'm going to fall!"
It was a fight or flight moment. I was not going to die on this day! I actually thought that in my mind! I forced myself to take that step forward. As my weight lifted off that back foot to move it forward I felt the rapid water swirl and grab it! I pushed with all my might to reach out to Felicity. She grabbed my hand and I yelled for her to stand strong. "PULL ME!" I yelled.
As she stood strong, weight centered on both feet, water swirling around her legs, she had my hand in hers tight! She pulled me to her so that I could release the weight from my feet to move forward. I ended up just in front of her!
"NOW, YOUR TURN!" I yelled to her. We changed our grip to hold onto each others forearms and locked in tight. I stood strong with weight centered and pulled her hard towards me. She whipped past me and landed in front of me and slightly down river! The trick was not to let go of each other. Our hearts racing and our minds hyper focused we continued in this manner until we reached the other shoreline. But it wasn't over yet.
Once on the other shore edge we realized that shore had no gentle slope. There was a slight cliff edge on that side that was not visible from the other shore. We were now up against climbing wet grass and mud to get up onto the dry land. We were exhausted and this trip had taken twice as long as it would have had we not just walked to the bridge! In the end, of course, you already know, we made it. By that time however, now on the other side, we had to walk straight back to the bridge, , and head home.
I never went down to the river again after that. We moved to another area and it was no longer close enough to walk to, but I think I would not have gone anyway. I learned a lot about life that day. I learned that great things can happen when your feet are slightly off the comfort of the ground that keeps you steady but that if you are too careless you can also make a serious wrong turn that could change your life forever. I also learned that water is a mighty force and should not be trifled with.
After this incident with the Bow River, the river and I had it out one more time; This was forced upon me and out of my control. A story for another time. Although I walk beside bodies of water and float in my bathtub, if it came down to it, I would choose the long route and avoid crossing the water itself every time, rather than play with the water and take a chance. I stay to the shoreline even though I am a very good swimmer. Open water has no interest to me now as far as me getting into it. Those days are over for me. I did have moments when I played with water throughout my life, and when I look back on some of those times... I am humbled to be here to write about it today!
I will leave you with just one simple thought that sums up my trip across the river with Felicity...
WHAT THE HELL WERE WE THINKING!