On Memories, Anniversaries, and Nature Walks

I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding.

John O’Donohue from Conamara Blues

That’s my life right there, in seventeen glorious words, strung together the John O’Donohue way.

The image of the river, flowing, contained by its banks that may or may not hold, carrying on, receiving, reflecting, flooding, and even drying up at times, being an integral part of an ever-changing landscape, isn’t that how we live our lives?

When it comes to it, this life has been flowing from one surprise to the next, with barely enough time to catch my breath in between.

This week brings along a milestone anniversary. I look back and reflect on how I arrived at this very moment.

I don’t remember every single detail and happening. Memories are playful things. Some are stubborn and refuse to give up the space they occupy. Others are gliding through and occasionally stop by to say hello. Then, there are memories that, like chameleons, adjust and evolve as time passes. They show me that how I view a past event depends on who I am at this moment and how far I’ve come in my evolution. What looked real and even painful forty years ago is softened by life experience and an altered point of view forty years later.

This week’s anniversary is a solid life event, the kind that changes one’s trajectory; however, as solid as this event is, there’s nothing predictable about how it has unfolded. It’s no wonder that when I came across John O’Donohue’s poem, it took my breath away.

What’s next, I wonder. What surprises await around the bend?

As I stand here, celebrating this anniversary, I am also inclined to acknowledge that “living like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding,” does not come naturally. Most of us crave guarantees and security. We want to know what awaits us around the bend.

Living spontaneously and with surrender takes practice and work. It’s not as straightforward or as romantic as it sounds. We are not conditioned to accept things as they come. Instead, we want to control the outcome. Clinging on what we know and are accustomed to feels safe. In addition, some of us are born with the temperament that can go with the flow, but many crave security and safety. Change pauses a threat.

What do we do then when the waters of our life flow in an unforeseen direction?
How do we trust that we’ll survive this journey into the unknown and grow and develop into the person we were born to be?
How do we calm our fear and overcome our doubts to walk the path underneath our feet?

Last week, we went hiking at one of our favorite local nature reserves. It was a beautiful afternoon to walk the boardwalk that goes through and around the marsh, brimming with life. Along the way, we had to walk on a bridge over a small river that flows into the marsh. A young man was standing there, still and quiet, looking down. When we got close to him, we saw that he was watching two geese with their goslings floating down the river. It was a moment that asked for our full presence.

The three of us stood on the bridge, attentively watching the geese and their young going with the flow. When they disappeared from our view, we looked at each other, smiled in acknowledgment, wished each other a good afternoon, and went our separate ways. I don’t know who that person was, and, most likely, I will never see him again, but at that moment, we were connected by beauty and stillness, in full appreciation of what we were witnessing.

Our lives are filled with moments like this if only we pause to witness them. We each have our own way of looking at things. One never knows what will capture our imagination and lift our spirits. In closing, I would like to share this poem by Willliam Stafford.

When I Met My Muse

I glanced at her and took my glasses
off—they were still singing. They buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch and
knew that nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. “I am your own
way of looking at things,” she said. “When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation.” And I took her hand.

William Stafford

What is “your own way of looking at things?” Where do you find inspiration and support? I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below. You can also reach out and schedule a conversation with me.

As always, thank you for being here and reading along.

I hope your month unfolds “Like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.”


  • Linda Samuels

    I’m grateful that your life changed so dramatically 40 years ago. It brought you here. And if that hadn’t happened, we might not have met. Happy Anniversary!

    So many thoughts surfaced as I read your post. Change was not something I used to seek out. I preferred constancy, predictability, and security. However, life has conspired to teach me many lessons. First, I understand that sometimes change happens to us without our choice. Other times, we pursue it. Either way, the path gets altered. There is no going back.

    As someone who felt incredibly uncomfortable with change for the first 20 or so years of my life, I look back now and recognize how much my perspective has changed. This is what I know. The changes I’ve gone through or sought have more often yielded positive, growth-driven outcomes. Learning and acknowledging that has increased my tolerance and desire to seek change and not be afraid of it.

    Simultaneously, I still love calm, stability, and predictability. I recognize that for me to fully embrace and seek change, I need grounding beneath me so I can thrive during the disruption change and transitions bring. This groundedness comes in many forms- my circle of loved ones, home, nature, meditation, journaling, and practicing self-care.

    Change can still make me anxious. However, I know I have the tools and confidence needed to forge ahead anyway. And as you noted, there’s nothing quite as grounding as watching a river flow, witnessing a geese family ‘out’ for a group swim, or connecting with beautiful moments of quiet and awe.

    • Yota Schneider

      Thank you, Linda! That’s very sweet of you to say. 💖
      I wouldn’t be here, living the life I have and crossing paths with some pretty awesome people … like you!

      I feel the same way about change. As much as I appreciate the many gifts of change, I also need periods of calm and stability to help me navigate times of uncertainty. Thank you for explaining your process so beautifully. It helps when we know ourselves and what constants and rituals support us at times of upheaval.

      And, as we both know, it is how we manage ourselves and the lessons we are willing to learn that are the true gifts of change.

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