The next day we decide to give the river a try. I scout out a short trail to the river that’s suitable for Michael to walk, and we set off, carrying our L.L. Bean beach tent shaped like a half dome, two blow-up “chairs,” an air mattress, some plums and marshmallows, water, and things to read.
The trail proves to be fine, and we both get down to the river easily. Michael wears a pair of water sandals that work well for him in and out of the water. He takes the rubber covers off the ends of his hiking poles and, using the exposed metal points, is able to maintain balance well as he walks both on the uneven trail and over the pebbles and rocks on the river bottom.
We find a lovely place on a sandy strip close to the water’s edge to put up our little shelter from the sun, whose direct rays would be too hot for Michael. I’m pleased we thought through what we would need and managed to bring everything with us; it looks as if we’re improving in the area of preparedness. Nearby, close to shore, is a natural pool in the river, formed by a large redwood stump at one end and a little stone bar at the other. The water flows slowly, its green color echoing the green boughs of the redwood trees, their strong trunks furry with reddish-brown bark.
We spend the majority of our time in the river. Michael finds that as long as most of his body is covered by cool water, he does well. In fact, he even feels he can walk almost normally because the water keeps his legs cold and his body temperature down. He wears a hat and dark glasses to protect his head and face from the heat of the sun. The river is a fairly short distance across at this point, and Michael can easily walk to the other side on his own, without using his hiking poles.
While I’m experimenting with swimming against the gentle current and letting it carry me back to where I started, I notice Michael has been standing at the opposite bank for quite some time. I go over to him.
“What are you doing?”
I notice there are a host of dragonflies flitting among the reeds that grow along the bank. We both stand transfixed, watching their transparent wings reflect the sunlight, transforming them into prisms of iridescent color. They’re creating a miniature light show as they dart and twist, abruptly turning and changing direction.
There, standing side by side in the still water, our bodies touch, and our love flows gently between us. Despite his disability, he has walked across the river on his own, and he’s excited to share his reward with me—the wonder of dancing dragonflies.
In the years to follow, dragonflies will become a powerful symbol for Michael—a transformative symbol of strength and renewal, a symbol of being whole.
About the author:
Suzanne Marriott is a memoirist and deep-travel writer who shares her transformative experiences with her readers. A native Californian, Suzanne has traveled up and down the coast of her state, exploring as far north as British Columbia and south into Mexico. She lives in an ecologically conscious cohousing community in the Sierra Nevada foothills. For more information on Suzanne’s life and the importance of compassionate caregiving, visit www.suzannemarriottauthor.com