The wait is long, but the weather is cooperative today as winter takes a moment to recoup and prepare for its next blustery shout. The sunshine’s warmth aligns with its light, celebrating its brief escape from the season’s demand for bitter cold. Time on my hands promotes a drive around this town I know not, and a new body of water beckons me to park and explore.
Worn wood posts mark the beginning and the distance of traveler’s trail. The faded numbers of yellow paint designate a place for the lost and the found. A discolored sign marks the rules of our outing. No swimming, no alcohol, certainly not at the same time. Permits required to fish but not to dream. That is free and encouraged. I guess every voyage must have its benefits and its boundaries.
The trees are thin and bare, sagging with the weight of loneliness. They miss their leaves. I step upon the wide gravel trail that leads down the hill toward the water and watch my son pause here and there to search for the perfect skipping stone within the rocks of glitter and dirt. The rocks are a symphony of uniqueness, flat and full, large and small, varied like the people of a great urban city. I see the water’s edge ahead and my eyes follow the trail, catching a glimpse of the lovely surprise I had seen from the road. The gravel breaks into a path of asphalt that continues straight through the shimmering lake. Today is a day for beauty and miracles—today I get to walk on the water.
The tangled undergrowth of branch and bush line the sides as I approach, hovering over the glittering silver and white reflections of the sun, like a cross-hatched painting trying to reveal a hidden treasure of jewels. From a distance, the sun’s production of diamonds upon the peaceful water resembles the thousands of points of light emerging from the crowd of an arena as the main act arrives upon the stage. The sparkling of light in random patterns and waves lights up the moment like the flash on their cameras, celebrating and capturing what is sure to be a big deal in the world of the water.
My journey leads me to the edge, and I step forward across the boundary that takes me from gravel to paved path. The overgrowth of the lake’s edge falls away, leaving me with an open view of my favorite thing—the living, breathing movement of my soul measured in gallons. Water has always been my answer to everything that worries my heart. The way it flows and moves and changes. The way it rises and falls and comes and goes only continues to confirm the existence of one that can create such an astounding masterpiece.
I travel this new path as I am renewed by fresh sunshine. I look ahead of me and allow it to entice my curiosity, following the lead with my eyes as it moves directly through the middle of the lake, where it then leaves both a dead end and a choice. Left or right? Or of course straight, if you don’t mind getting wet. I continue to move toward the inevitable decision, one footstep at a time.
Walking along the low levy’s path, the brisk air competes with the sun’s warmth on my face. In the places the gentle breeze does not touch, the water is glass. Smooth, dark glass. Benches beckon me from each side of the path, offering rest amid the open shoreline, free of winter’s coffee-colored crackling leaves and reeds of yellow and tan. The diamonds call me further, just out of reach, moving as I do, like a teasing mirage I cannot reach. A man casts his line from the bank, alone in his thoughts. The fish nibble on the other side, away from the hooks, leaving concentric circles as the only proof they were there.
The path continues through the blues and the browns and the grays and the silvers, creating patterns that are there and then gone. Across the water, the barren trees stand crowded and spindly among the mocking of the occasional evergreen. They transparently offer a scene only winter can see, one that will disappear among the new life of spring.
The clean asphalt, without yet a crack of wear, drives me to the choice. The moment of deciding is here. Left or right? Right or wrong? Six symmetrically planted foundling trees lean in, listening for my answer, marking the moment of decision. To each side lies a bridge leading from the walk on the water to a walk among trees as the path disappears into the unknown. The entrance to each concrete hill is linked by a rusted metal railing and is guarded by stone pillars and plaques too far away to read. The bridge cannot decide for me, only help me across in the way I will choose.
Straight ahead is the water. It goes on past my vision, farther than I can see. At my feet, it lies murky but clear, with rocks seen and unseen, presenting as confusing as my choice. Runners pass in focus, friends in conversation, bikers in a hurry. None have time to guide me. This choice is mine alone. I breathe in the sunlight and inhale the moment. I turn and walk confidently in the direction I will go. I have no idea if the choice is right. I do not know what lies ahead. The joy must be in the journey. I know now that the miracle was not the walking on water, that was just the beauty of a gift I’ve been given. The real miracle lies in the freedom to choose what path takes me to the next unknown. The real miracle is being brave enough to choose.