Be Still and Float
Impressed at myself and the fact that I’d made it in without falling into the river, I lounged comfortably in my tube in the Guadalupe, except for the cold water chill grazing my bum. I’d been both excited and anxious about this trip for months. I needed to get away. I wasn’t taking a full-on vacation this summer, so this weekend getaway was my summer trip. I travelled to Austin with ten friends for a long weekend of relaxing, eating, and tubing. This would be my first time floating the river, at almost forty-two years of age, hence my anxiety. I was also the only single on this trip. There were five couples (who I adore), and me, the proverbial eleventh wheel.
Is this it? I thought, as I floated immobile in the still river. “When do we start moving?” I inquired to our group. This was a piece of cake. I was lying in my tube feeling completely relaxed. “Can you pass me a Modelo?” I savored the sound of the top popping and the taste of the icy beer on my lips. I could feel the cold water on my feet and my seat. I was surrounded by people I care about. I could get used to this. And we did, indeed, start to move down the river, albeit at a glacial pace.
The night before we went to the Saltlick and had delicious barbecue. We stayed in a glorious, gorgeous cabin off the beaten path. The deer were plentiful, and it was such a nice escape. That morning, I stole away to the front porch with my coffee for a silent, still, introverted moment.
Back at the river, it was my friend Stephen’s birthday, so we decided while all eleven of us were floating in the Guadalupe River, we should sing happy birthday! Because eighty percent of us sing in the Turtle Creek Chorale men’s chorus, we harmonized instinctively, and this was no mediocre rendition. Everyone around us was smiling enrapt by the music. A girl floating with a group nearby proclaimed, “I’m Lauren! It’s my birthday, too!” So we immediately sang the song again for her. The river was filled with all kinds of happy people, and it was a joyous moment.
As we finished our second round of happy birthday, we realized a group of ominous clouds were gathering and approaching us. We actually began to blow backwards. It wasn’t long before we had blown back past where we entered the river in the first place. Then it began to rain. It was chilly. I shivered. We felt annoyed, uncomfortable, giggly, and exhilarated simultaneously. I will never forget that indescribable moment.
The rain finally dissipated, and we took turns pulling our crew in the right direction. The remainder of the float was relatively calm, until the last bit. We actually picked up quite a bit of speed, and our twines broke, so we got separated a few times. I had feared this from the beginning, but I managed just fine. Another storm was brewing, and exiting the river in the right spot proved to be challenging, but we made it.
That night we headed to the Gristmill for dinner. As we waited for our table on the palatial patio, we marveled at the seventy-five degree weather on a mid-July evening in Gruene, Texas. As we ate our southern faire together, framed in a peaceful, calming sunset, I was overwhelmed with gratitude.
Sunday morning, as I drank my coffee on the porch of that charming cabin, I felt as if I floated amidst the strong, rooted, sprawling trees. I have always been in love with the trees and think we can learn so much from them in their beautiful wisdom.
Our entire group broke bread together one last time at brunch in Austin at Cafe Bouldin. We ate well on this trip. My friend Stephen and I both ordered a drink called a “Beyonce” and I proceeded to ask the group, “Does anyone want to taste my 'Beyonce'? It’s delicious!” and we all laughed.
When the waiter asked how he should split our checks, everyone paired off, and I replied, “I’m alone.”
He replied, “I prefer -- independent.”
“I’m totally fine either way.” I smiled at him.
On our way out of town, Lars, Stephen, and I (I carpooled with them) stopped by Barton Springs for one last vacation experience. I could check another first off my list. I jumped into the cold spring. My feet barely touched the rocky bottom. I propelled myself up and down with my toes. I felt invigorated, relaxed, centered, and buoyant.
I didn’t take an exotic, far-away vacation this summer, but I’m so thankful for this long weekend away from the monotonous details that can weigh me down. Life is about so many things, but the most important pieces are those tiny moments that end up causing us to bubble up with smiles, laughter, and life-affirming emotions. Like when you look a friend in the eye across the room and share a knowing feeling of love and understanding. Or when you laugh until you cry. Or you’re just sitting on an unfamiliar porch with a cup of coffee and the trees, and you are reminded of everything that is actually familiar and true.
In that last moment of our trip, as I floated and bounced in that cold, crisp water, I reflected on these feelings and memories, and I looked forward to the next tiny moment that would give me life’s grandest feelings and carry me on.