Refining and Redefining A Life

Feeling a need to get outside on another gorgeous, sunny, winter day, I checked in with my intuition. Should I hike along a lake and to a Prairie Dog colony? Or would my soul feel better with a walk through a meadow, or perhaps the edge of a pine forest? My heart, instead, leads me to a trail destroyed in the floods of September 2013 -- the Coal Creek Trail in Lafayette, Colorado.

I set out on foot from the newly-rebuilt parking area at the southern end of town. It took over a year for the city to rebuild this section of trail and I waited impatiently for work to commence. Other roads, bridges, and bike paths took precedence though. But today I finally have a chance to see the changes that Nature brought to Coal Creek.

Walking west from the parking area, I immediately notice the creek bed and floodplain appear surprisingly changed. Driftwood and debris that once choked the creek are gone, leaving a sense of light and spaciousness in the little woods along the waterway.

A new "pond" along Coal Creek

The creek channel itself is quite different too. New gravel brought down from the mountains during the flood creates bars, rapids, and beaches. The floodwaters cut off old channels and created new ones. Small ponds interrupt and slow down the water where there once was only swiftly moving current. These ponds provide new habitat for small fish, crustaceans, kingfishers, herons, and other animals. In some areas where the land's slope flattens, the stream fans out into much smaller braided channels interrupted by little islands of vegetation. A good home for frogs.

The old trails dead ends into a new pond.

A mile west of my starting point, the old trail leads off to the left and dead-ends into a new, tiny pond. During the rebuilding of the trail, the city crews rerouted the new path off to the right and away from the creek. I silently thank the them for being respectful of Nature's changes in moving the trail to a safer area. They could have simply reengineered the trail along the old route by filling in the pond, but instead they left the pond alone and put the trail on higher ground. Easier and economical, yes, to put the path in a new location, but we humans don't always take the best path for Nature even when it's the easier one. In this case, though, the economical choice is good for both us and Nature.

As I continue my walk, I mull over the parallels of this newly-redefined creek to my own life.

Hard times give Nature a chance to clear out the old and start afresh. Coal Creek has been renewed and redefined as a result of a disaster. Nature cleaned out the old creek bed during the flood and reformed and redefined the stream channel and its ecosystem. The disaster gave life a chance to change and flourish again.

The stream didn't have a choice in the matter, though. The disaster of the flood forced the redefinition of the creek. But given a chance, Nature heals its own scars quite beautifully.

I realize that I am doing the same right now. My life has changed greatly in the last year and I am in the process of redefining who I am in the wake of that change. My motivations and drivers for living are drastically different. What once was important to me no longer means much, and I find more comfort now in the simple joys of being outside, helping others, and loving. Finding my soul in Nature is important in my life now. Seeking spiritual guidance from Spirit out among the mountains, trees, and prairies brings joy into my heart.

I still struggle with my changing idea of what "fulfillment" entails these days. It used to be that successful projects in the office gave me a sense that my life was important, a sense of being "fulfilled." Now my sense of fulfillment is in transition. Writing about spirituality and Nature feels important and fulfilling. Creating a painting that celebrates my view of Nature fills a void that no amount of perfectly working computer code can. Helping others, and extending love, feels satisfying and right in a way I can't explain.

But I'm only a year into these life changes and a part of me still feels the need to be a productive member of society. I know I am changing my own personal view of what "productive" means, though. It feels impactful and positive for me to be a voice for Nature and Spirit through my artwork and writing. While society may not agree with my own assessment of productivity and fulfillment, I realize that the only person I need to please is myself. If I feel as though I'm living a life of fulfillment, even if it's outside the norms of society, then it's the right life for me.

In a broader sense, we humans may face disasters in our lives too. Divorce, breakups, death, job changes, injuries, and illnesses can overturn the comfortable routine of our lives and force us to consider what's really important. Unlike Nature, though, we can choose how, or if, to use these challenges to reshape and refine our sense of self and our lives.

Some may choose to ignore the opportunity and soldier on, attempting to stay within the perceived comfort zone of what was or what society thinks is right. Others may sense the gifts inherent in the difficulty: the gifts of opportunity, of insight, of contemplation, and the ability to refine, or redefine, who we are and what's important.

All content copyright Nancy Rynes, 2015. Please read disclaimer and Legal Notes here.