Restored, reconciled, resilient…

By Lillian Ireland

Some of the deepest and most meaningful times of healing my soul have been sitting on the well-worn rocks in the middle of the Chehalis River.

I was often “called” there when grief overtook me and I needed a quiet place to just be. Yet, the pounding of the water, splashing and flowing around me, was definitely not quiet. But, somehow, it stilled the noisy thoughts churning around in my head. The rushing water, the constancy of the rocks and the scent of the trees and mountain air somehow spoke to my heart, uttering, “Welcome, I’ve been waiting for you.”

I would go there alone, and sit in the sun, with a pen and paper. The calling was an invitation to somehow “wrestle” with the Almighty over what I considered life’s injustices.

Me, a small speck battling with the Creator of the Universe, in the middle of a shallow river. How crazy is that! But it’s what I did repeatedly when life seemed so absurd and hard to understand.

If anyone had watched me sitting on the polished, grey boulders, I wonder what they would have thought. Perhaps:

  • A mad woman, alone, reflecting
  • A strange woman who had lost her way
  • A fragile woman finding peace in her inner sanctum
  • A depressed woman making some type of a decision
  • An overloaded woman needing solitude
  • A crazed writer waiting for inspiration
  • A cleric waiting on God
  • An environmentalist communing with the fish

Yet, what happened in those hours, steeped in the river, was always the same.

First, I’d verbally name the grief which was tormenting me. Then I’d write it down on the notepad residing in my pocket.

Seeing the words on paper somehow gave a strange release from the stresses which brought me there in the first place. Unraveling and then giving voice gave freedom. I knew I was heard.

Tears would transform to peace, and slowly a calm would overtake my troubled heart.

Inevitably I’d hear a bird calling from the shore or overhead. I would start to pay attention to the rustling leaves, the gentle wind on my arms, the myriad of carved rocks warmed by the sun’s blazoning stare surrounding me.

Strangely, and without fail, I’d begin to sigh and then smile with a renewed sense of peace. Gratitude would overtake me, even though it didn’t make any sense. There wasn’t an audible answer to the why’s of pain, life or death, or the perplexing political decisions “made on our behalf”, but the profound head-to-heart catharsis helped me know I’d make it through any turbulent water. When it felt right, I’d get up and head back home. The world’s problems weren’t solved, but that was OK.

Somehow, the physical demands of carefully making my way over the river rocks to find the exact one to lay my burdens on, and then making my way back to shore afterwards, let me know I could cross whatever hurdle came, aware that I was not alone.

I left restored, reconciled, resilient.

Only recently did I hear that rocks and stones are considered some of the oldest medicine on earth. Yet, for years, I had found and shared heart-shaped rocks picked up along life’s different paths. They were, and still are, what I believe to be one of Mother Earth’s ways of saying “Thank You…”


  1. Reminds me of a song by Jenny Lester

    Sitting on rocks down by the river
    Feeling the powers that be
    You can howl at the moon, wade the deep water
    There’s no place that I’d rather be
    Just the river, Mother Nature and me

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *