“Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal: my strength lies solely in my tenacity.”
When I was a child, in Georgia, we took a field trip to a nature center called Oxbow Meadows. At the time, I didn’t know what an “oxbow” was; I just knew I totally loved the name.
Later on in life I learned that as a river flows, it will erode its banks over time. What might start off as a little divot erodes and erodes until it forms a classic river bend. “Oxbow” refers to this kind of U-shaped bend in the river, and an oxbow lake is when the river has eroded the bank of the bend to the point where it cuts off from the main stream—think of it like cutting a line across the top of a “U.” Well, what happens to the bottom of the U that is no longer getting access to the running waters of the river? It becomes an oxbow lake.
There are so many spiritual lessons from the natural world and—in a season filled with Ingatherings and Water Communions—this is one for me: oxbow lakes as a beautiful combination of resiliency, strength, and flexibility.
It takes a long time for an oxbow to fully form into an oxbow lake. The water doesn’t care; it just keeps going. If there’s something in the way, water will bump up against it and then go around it. If water was too rigid, it wouldn’t be able to flow down the banks of a river.
But we all know about the strength of water too. Water can do incredible things—incredibly beautiful things and incredibly destructive things. Running water can be the strongest force in our natural world: breaking down rocks, digging out grand canyons, swallowing an entire island. It’s this strength that helps water erode the walls of the river, eventually forming the oxbow.
We often think that strength and flexibility are opposite sides of the same coin. But when they are united with resiliency, you can literally move the earth. Resiliency united with strength and flexibility creates beauty in the world, and creates new spaces for life to flourish. In this time in my life, at this time in our history, I need this kind of oxbow resiliency more than ever.
May we all have oxbow strength, carving through mountains, determined to change. May we all have oxbow flexibility, bending around the curves, overcoming all obstacles. May we all have oxbow faith moving forward.
Photo copyright U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters/CC BY 2.0