The sun was shining. Temperatures were in the mid-70s. My husband was restless. He decided to set aside his nursing school studies on a Sunday afternoon and embrace the outdoors. His favorite childhood memories revolve around playing in creeks in Boone, North Carolina, where he grew up, and he was in the mood to explore some of the Raccoon River basin. We’ve done this before at Ledges State Park and the kids loved it, but he wanted a more remote location, and closer to home. And we all definitely needed out of the house.
Construction noise, highway roar and sirens have been the cacophony of sounds in the West Des Moines suburbs during the week. And a bird can hardly get a word in edgewise between lawnmowers, chain saws and roof repairmen. So we climbed into the family van and headed east on Interstate 80, and took an exit near Adel. Locating the river was easy. Access to it was not, but that’s what invigorates my husband. A challenge.
For this post, I decided to allow my photos to inform my writing, rather than the other way around. I wasn’t sure what kind of images I would get, especially when we were on the wrong side of the river for the angle of the mid-afternoon sun, and I’m hardly a skilled photographer, but I wasn’t afraid to experiment. I’ve also discovered that snapping photos helps me stay present in the moment. Immersing my senses in the natural elements also calms and refocuses my mind. This was an opportunity to appreciate and admire my husband for the wonderful father he is and observe my family having fun. A time to calm my daughter’s horror at the mud on her water shoes and gently remind her that it isn’t going to cause any harm. A moment to affirm my son’s delight and imagination as he splashed and thrashed around.
I challenged myself to search for beauty here, within this barren, drought-stricken eco-system while my kids followed their dad and played in the shallow waters. I was disappointed to see so little color in the foliage and sand bars jutted out as in mid-October. Green trees and dead weeds told the story of a hot, dry summer. But where there is water and sunshine, there is always beauty. Sunlight dancing on the surface of water always mesmerizes me. Deer tracks and a few shells were the natural elements embedded in mud, telling stories of other land and marine animals that once made their home here.
My mind flashed back to the scriptures where it describes the Jordan River. John the Baptist urged repentance and then baptized Jesus there. The Jordan was much larger and deeper than this glorified creek, but perhaps the sunlight glinted off the water the same it did thousands of years ago. Gazing at the stones reminded me of the 12 tribes of Israel that the priests were told to memorialize by setting up stones in the Jordan just before the Israelites crossed over to the Promised Land. So many important events in the Bible took place near or in The Jordan River.
Water carries so much symbolism in the Old and New Testaments. From the Nile River to the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee, so many important events center around water. It also carries spectacular beauty and mystery.
Gazing at the river bank’s reflection in the water is calming, but sometimes, a guy just needs to throw rocks. Hurling a large stone as far out as you can, listening for the “spluck” into the water and studying the generating ripples, blurring a beautiful reflection, is always fun.
My father-in-law, whom I barely got the chance to know before he passed away four years ago, was a brilliant landscape photographer and showcased the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina in all seasons. What advice would he have given me about the best way to frame a photo, or the best filter. How would he have photographed his grandkids?
I have about 25 more photos that did not make this post, but we certainly made some wonderful memories of a simple way to spend the last remaining days of summer together in nature.
The next morning, on our way to school, my daughter informed me, “Mommy, I wanna go back to the river again! That was fun!” That week, my second grader was asked to draw a picture of his weekend and what he enjoyed the most. He drew a picture of us down by the river, wading in the waters, and Mommy with her camera.