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The Mountain Stream of Relationships

The Magoebaskloof Mountain

As the autumn ochres started to show, I found myself in the indigenous forest of the Magoebaskloof mountain. I sat on a mossy rock, with a little river flowing by. How lovely it is to rest under a canopy of towering trees, with the sounds of the forest and the dappled light sparkling through. I guess it reminds me of a childhood in churches and cathedrals, marvelling at stained-glass windows, and listening to the harmony of choral voices.

I had been invited to the mountain to lead a marriage ceremony, and as I contemplated the river, it revealed its metaphor for human life and relationships. We start small and active, drawn along by gravity, round rocks and over ledges. We meet other rivers, join together, then sometimes lose momentum, become braided and move apart. With the added energy of new tributaries, more water, we grow strong, meandering, deepening, and move towards the vastness of the ocean.

Relationships like Rivers

I was thinking about couples, and how we come together in a union. Our two lives, like bubbling streams, meet on the mountain slopes. We connect, with fun and enthusiasm, flowing over pebbles and tree roots, slowly finding our way and building cohesion. Maybe new rivers join our lives, building family and community. And then, too often, disaster strikes, the earth seems to fall away. We pour unwillingly over waterfalls, are knocked against the rocks and broken into a million droplets. Everything we knew is blown apart. We crash downwards, bruised and battered by life’s unexpected tragedies, wearing away the rock beneath. There’s nothing solid to hold onto. We are groundless.

Recently, I have talked to so many friends whose lives have been dashed onto the rocks – the long journey of cancer treatment, the unknown path of mental illness, the death of loved ones, or those whose death leaves chaos in its wake. The waterfall may look beautiful, but when we are the ones tumbling down, the million water droplets create a kaleidoscope of confusion.

And yet, we have all seen what lies below the waterfall: a deep, quiet pool; a place of reflection; a place to stay awhile. We may need to rest in the depths for some time, allowing the water to heal our bruised hearts. We may float on the surface, allowing the sounds and sunbeams to soak into our wounds. When we look carefully, this pool is full of life: tiny tadpoles, water skippers, plants and bubbles. Bubbles of hope, perhaps. This is a place to regain the energy of the river, and to prepare for the on-going journey; the journey to the great ocean.

A Wedding Wish

My deep wish, for every couple that I marry, is that from the wedding day onwards, their lives in relationship might flow smoothly. There will be boulders in the way of course, dam walls en route, yet I wish that we can all learn from the qualities of water, to navigate skilfully around obstacles, to find creative solutions to our conflicts and to purify our resistance to situations. In time, we may even dissolve away our knotty, gritty personality traits, transforming them into qualities that heal and connect. I wish that each couple might build momentum as they go forward. Together they can form a wide, calm, flowing river, a river alive with fish, with plants, a river that provides sustenance to so many other lives.

When two rivers come together, to form a relationship, they unite different families and communities. They bring of themselves, yet create something new. They integrate the past, and keep focused ahead, on the vast potential, embodied by the ocean.

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