Friday, January 15, 2010

Meeting High Water

[image: Oak Creek and Cathedral Rock, by JoelDeluxe]
In Appalachia, which isn't too far from here, there is a saying people use when agreeing to do something in the future - "The good Lord willing an' the creek don't rise." Through my dharma lens, that's a bow to all the things that can happen to prevent us from meeting our goals, keeping our promises. All that reality out there that doesn't care what you want, and gives rise to a future you can't predict.

An' the creek don't rise.

We were in the Honda Civic, out west, Arizona, driving through the Superstition Mountains. There must have been a lot of snow and a lot of thaw. I was driving along enjoying the curving road and the mountain scenery until we came to a dip in the road labeled "Punkin Creek." The road there was filled with brown, rushing water, and there was a sign posted, High Water. The water didn't look that high, maybe ankle-deep, but I rolled to a stop. I thought about how hard it was going to be to turn around and go a long way back to take another route. I didn't see why I shouldn't try it.

Tom said, "Ahh, I don't think we should try to go through that." Something like that, calm and reasonable.

I protested. I have always been more of a risk-taker than him, except when it comes to buying electronics. But he told me what rushing water can do - carry you and your car downstream and into big trouble - and I reluctantly turned around. Some people are always spoiling all the fun.

To his satisfaction, we learned later that the town on the other side of that rushing water, which was also named Punkin Creek, was cut off from civilization as we know it (i.e. even 4-wheel drive vehicles) for three days. Three days! You could run out of bread.

The good Lord willin'.

I don't know about the good Lord, whether there is an overriding unembodied Consciousness, if it has a will. The question doesn't worry me. It would be interesting to find out about it after death. I think of "the good Lord" as a metaphor for all those braided forces, like the woven strands of run-off that make a creek rise. I know now that what looks like a little obstacle can have mighty force.

And where there is snow melt and fast-running water and no bridge, you can find yourself stranded downstream. The ordinary natural world, a thousand little run-offs from high up the mountain, can defeat you without even trying. You thought that getting to a certain restaurant for lunch, or passing your generals, or making a marriage "work," whatever your ambition, was something you could do if you just did the right thing. But sometimes all the determination in the world is just going to dig you deeper in the mud. It's a good idea to respect the High Water sign and consider another way around the mountain.