It was the first day of winter. Snow and new frost covered the earth and dusted the trees that sparkled like crushed diamonds. Across the land's surface a black river cut through with several twists and turns but no end in sight. Occasionally it would grow still and ice would envelop its waters during this cold season. However this time the river ran smooth and free of solid obstructions save for a small boat. Down the center where the current was strong and firm it sat drifting. Seated up at the prow she was waiting for the journey that would be taken by the river.
The hour was just before dawn when she had gotten in the boat. Normally her eyes would be itching to close themselves and her head would droop onto her shoulder. However, she was sitting up straight and taking in every minute detail. The air was empty and so cold it seemed to shiver. Every time she inhaled the thin tissues inside her nose would contract in a painful way. She pulled the wool scarf up higher across her face for better protection. The material was scratchy and not the ideal sort of comfort compared to silk but it was very warm. Hot moist breath seeped into her nose allowing the sensitive skin to loosen up.
The boat dipped slightly in the slow moving current. No oar or sail was needed to guide the tiny craft, because the river that carried it was alive. A gradual rise and fall of the river was a sign many people would overlook because of its subtlety. She noticed it only because the waters were so calm and still.
She spared a moment to glance down at the oar lying by her feet. There came times when such a tool was necessary. Like life the river can become difficult to ride. She prayed and hoped that when the time came, the river would take kindly to the use of an oar reworking the boat's journey. The single oar could do so little when fighting against the current. Stories had been told of people who decided to take matters into their own hands by attempting to redirect the river's course. The results were always the same: submission or death.
But as of now the river was steady and firm with her boat. She allowed it to carry her down its course, wherever that may be. The waters were dark and cold as ice to the touch. The sight was ominous knowing that by a single stroke of fate, the river could tip her over and swallow her up.
Not wanting to think about what that would be like she raised her eyes up to the heavens. The stars were beginning to surrender their light and fade as the sky changed colors. Black trees that were bare of their leaves blocked the horizon in every direction. From between the skeleton-like branches, a faint warm pinkish glow appeared. The sun was now beginning to make its ascent for a new day. Soon its rays would encompass the earth's surface and hopefully give her some warmth.
Lowering her eyes slightly she fixed them on evading river's course. Many people have described what the journey was like: the experience, excitement, monotony, fear, and heartbreak. However the end has never been shared. The unknown was frightening to her because she couldn't predict the worst. Counsel had been given to her that the process not the outcome should be the focus on a journey. That was something hard to take to heart when her way of thinking was to assume the worst and be in control.
She closed her eyes to block out the distraction and whispered to herself.
"It's the process, not the outcome
the process, not the outcome that matters."
The breath beneath her scarf was becoming hot and damp to the point that she long for fresh air. After pulling down the material she sucked in a mouthful of air that chilled her lungs. She was tempted to hide her face again but the damp wool was now cold. Heaving a sigh that showed in a white cloud she gazed ahead at the river.
She wished she could talk to someone. Having another person to bounce ideas around was something she longed for constantly. Her own thoughts at times would be overwhelming to the point she hated the comforts of solitude. Just the presence of another would help; something to let her know that she wasn't alone on this journey down the river. Was that too much to ask?
Then she recalled the stories. Not everyone but several have expressed the presence of another being with them; an unseen person that came to share the journey. This person was known for offering comfort, help, and counsel but only to those who would let him in. His ways of assistance could be both frustrating and liberating because sometimes the things that we want are not the things that we need. As sure as his presence could be known, she would never be able see him. She knew that turning around to look back was impossible if she wanted to stay in the boat. Her focus must always be on what was ahead of her in order stay on course.
But she wanted to know that he was there. She had to know.
Staring straight ahead but not really seeing the river up ahead she reached a gloved hand out behind her back. Her arm stretched towards at the nothingness and for a moment her heart sank.
'I guess I am a-' She began to think in her mind.
Then something large took her hand and she felt fingers cup around hers. Her heart skipped a beat and for a moment she had the urge to turn around. Catching herself she instead bowed her head as her breath escaped in a puff of cloud. The hand didn't let go. It was warm and strong in its grip around her own hand, filling her up with hope like helium would to a balloon.
"You really are there." She said at last.
"Of course I am," said a soft voice that almost hummed, "I have been and always will be for as long as you want me to."
Raising her head up she again took in the vast river before her. No longer did it look ominous with its cold black waters. Instead she saw adventure and experience waiting to happen. Wherever the river was going to take her little boat she would go with it and enjoy the ride.
"Of course," she muttered to herself, "go and enjoy the ride. That is what it is all about."
The hand squeezed hers in affirmation.
"Yes," the voice added, "go and enjoy the ride."