When I first got my license at 16, I used to make up false errands that I desperately needed to run in order to get the keys to the family car for a precious hour or two. I would drive straight to the ocean. Every time.
I spent hours sitting on the cold stones of Middle Cove, Torbay and Flatrock, whispering questions into the waves, feeling the answers resonating somewhere in my bones. Accepting this exchange for what it was. I remember the day in Torbay when the realization hit me with the force of a crashing wave: That the ocean was my spirit.
I was floored. I was calm. I was ecstatic. I did a funny little wiggly dance. My heart moved with the swells of the sea.
But then this summer, for the first time since, something shifted. I went to the mountains. Driving down the Bay of Islands one sunny June day, I was suddenly struck my the overwhelming urge to pull over. This small, nondescript river was passing casually under the road, minding its own business. The next thing I knew, I was scrambling over boulders, following the river upstream. I was pulled through alder brush and into birch and onward for almost an hour, when I rounded a corner and there was Blomidon Mountain before me.
The river cascaded from the mountain in an ecstatic waterfall, weaving through the forest to where my feet were by now bare and ankle deep. I was flooded with that same feeling from all those years ago: overwhelming emotion and clarity. Except this time I felt my spirit cascading over me and moving right through, cold and clear and present as a river.
I looked down at my feet, all at once overjoyed by the notion that the water seeping into my skin would become a part of me, just as particles of skin would drift downstream and I would become a part of the river.
Something in the vastness of the ocean had begun to swallow me whole in its magnitude, a concept I willingly bowed to at 16, but the freedom of the river carving its own path holds my heart a little closer these days.
I welcomed the river spirit gladly, and the year was spent chasing rivers whenever I could. Following their paths to hidden pools, watching them cascade over waterfalls and dipping my toes. I will always cherish the ocean for everything it has taught me, but I welcome this new chapter in self-discovery and the opportunities it presents for new explorations.