Ice Bridges, by Tricia Harrington

It is significantly warmer today than it has been all of January. Fifty-two degrees, a temperature that only four months ago I would have needed a sweatshirt to walk outside. Fifty-two degrees also means that all of the snow melted, thus creating the shallow stream that used to be a walking path. The side of the hill that leads to my pebble beach bears resemblance to a small, muddy waterslide. I take my chances, but with one swift step I slide directly into the mud and the brush. Every rose has its thorn, and every thorn bush has thousands. I laugh and carefully pick myself up and wipe the mud off of my hands while I limp to the beach. I wore a T- shirt today; I thought it would be nice to soak up some vitamin D that isn’t in the form of Flintstone gummies. I am convinced that I would have been able to do so without the newly formed holes in my arm, but nature planned otherwise.

I brought Finn with me today. He is my roommate’s dog, but he is also the thing that I spend most of my free time with. Finn is medium sized with a brindle coat, his body is shaped like that of a small greyhound, and his soft ears flop onto his face next to his big brown eyes. He makes for good company on days where I don’t feel like talking. I sit down among the pebbles, and notice a few pink shells. The creases rise and fall spanning from the bowed top to an apex at the bottom. I imagine a small creature folding the shell over and under in order to fashion a small corrugated fan. I smile and Finn lies beside me to lick my wounds.

The stream is visibly flowing, but a few ice bridges still remain. I watch as the water laces itself under and around the ice and the rocks; I admire how it still flows in the face of adversity. I begin to think about where I am in my life. Like the stream, many things have gotten in my way, and I found my way around them eventually (obviously not with the same fluidity of the stream). Over the past few years I have been knocked down more times than I could get back up. Depression froze over me like the ice bridges, I see it for what it is but I am unable to break through immediately. Day by day, I melt the ice a little more and eventually it won’t keep me down. There is always the threat of cold that could form the ice again; it is my job to have the strength to flow even if that happens. On page 152 in Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer writes “Order and stability emerge out of chaos.” She may have been describing making a black ash basket, but to me it said so much more. So long as I keep going, I can get through.

Finn emerges from his explorations and stands directly at my side. His big brown eyes look up at me just before he leaps for a muddy kiss; he knows just what to do to get me out of my own head. We stare ahead and watch the water skim the belly of the white tree that looms over the water. I heed to the bird songs that seem to harmonize with the splashing.

A feeling of calmness rushes over me as the sun is setting through the trees. The past few weeks have been the most hectic with school and work, but the hour I spend on this pebble beach once a week pulls me right back in. Some things may (literally) be a thorn in my side, but so long as I do my part as a human, the earth can continue to do its part as my home. Robin Wall Kimmerer says it best, “Action on behalf of life transforms. Because the relationship between self and the world is reciprocal, it is not a question of first getting enlightened or saved and then acting. As we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us.”

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