Last week I went down to the river. The frigid temperatures had broken for a second time this winter, and a thaw was underway. Maybe the last one.
The ice was still thick, but it was going. As all things must go.
I looked at the thawing ice, a sign of hope, and felt a bleak coldness. A few nights before a woman had walked out on the town bridge, a mile or so upriver from us. She had taken off her coat and laid it down, climbed over the railing, and fallen through the darkness. In the morning light there was only her coat and a jagged hole in the ice.
So for most of a week we had been looking at the river and wondering where she was. And wondering so much more. We knew her troubled life; we knew her pain; we could even tell ourselves that she was now free of that pain. But at what cost? For we also knew her children, and we knew the way it should have been.
Once again life had confronted us with harsh mystery. No use to ask why. Seasons come and seasons go; life is given, and life is taken away. Nature looks at us with an unwavering gaze. No malice, no apology. As if to say, "Live! Make the most of the season you have. Do what you can. But this is how it will be."
The night before, I had driven across the bridge and seen flashing lights a quarter mile downstream on the river side of the road. The river was opening up, beginning to give up its secrets. She had been found.
This week I went down to the river again. Red winged blackbirds were calling in the evening fields.
Flowing as it has for generations, and as it will for generations to come.
Washing everything clean, and, even in the face of death, bringing new life once again.