This has been a really strange week at my house. Both Einstein and I have been feeling really off-kilter, not as a unit, but just thwarted by some recent developments and the emotional energy that surrounds them. Yesterday those emotions came to a head, and we simply couldn't function. So we packed up our kids and our life jackets and went to the lake.
Whenever we venture out like this it feels great. We took many mental health days after my dad died two years ago. We drove down to Galveston Island State Park and miraculously had the entire place to ourselves. We walked along the beach in complete solitude, let the girls play in the sand and the sea, and let the the salt air and the grand forces of nature wash over us, and hold us rooted to the earth.
We went on day hikes along rivers, discovered waterfalls and massive oak trees that had stood witness to more hopes and sorrows than Einstein and I will ever know. We took long drives out in the country, camped, walked, listened to the wind rush through the trees, and the sound of water bubbling over rocks. And we made our best investment yet: a canoe.
We lived in Austin, Texas at the time and dragged our canoe out on the Colorado River that winds its way through the area, where we explored every little crevice of water around Town Lake. We stumbled upon deer and large snapping turtles, nests teeming with duck eggs, swan couples swimming along with their fuzzy-headed cygnets, and a multitude of dragonflies, blue and sparkling as they darted all around us. We found surprise rain showers and warm, clear springs to wade around in. And more than once we rowed out under Congress Street bridge to behold hundreds of thousands of bats take flight at dusk over our heads.
Being in the presence of nature is cathartic. No matter what tragedy befalls us, nature goes on, unhalted. The open air makes room for the energy that swells inside us, causing our hearts to break and our heads to spin-- nature gives us all the room we need for that stuff to dissipate. It helps us slow our heart rates, think more clearly and gives us room to breathe.
Yesterday we ended up at a nearby lake. We made friends with local fisherman, and the kids were a captive audience to three families of geese and their combined 18 goslings. We watched birds and noticed the myriad shades of green in the trees across the lake. We rowed and sat. Contemplated and breathed deeply. And held each other.
We're always teaching our kids something. Hopefully mental health falls somewhere at the top of the list. I hope when they're older they will remember these days on the lake and be able to release their own inevitable sorrows into the wind, and like the geese, find their way home again.