When office work leaves my soul numb or I can’t take another minute of parenting without losing it, the river grounds me. Whether I’m kayaking, running, or waterfall gaping, there’s something about the moving water that brings me back to feeling balanced when I have no idea how to get there on my own. It might be seeing a turtle, otter, or blue heron that reminds me of grace. Other days simply watching the flow of the water, reminding me to let go and simply be, is enough. The river has become my way of connecting with my own depths and contours, and the people I’ve met on rivers have become some of my closest friends.

The river has become my sacred place in the world, and being out in nature acts like a salve for my pain. Mother Nature has a way of healing. Becoming a parent has enhanced my appreciation and gratitude for spending time outside, and as I’ve become more concerned about the legacy I’m leaving for my child and his generation than personal pursuits I’ve begun to ask myself – what have I done to heal the natural world that has given so much to me?

I’m starting to explore my role as a steward for the outdoors and realizing my responsibility to speak for what cannot speak for itself. Rivers are a sacred place for me, and as I raise my son, I want to preserve wilderness areas for him so that he can open a guidebook or google recreation areas and experience the same sense of possibility of all the places out there to explore. I want to increase the odds that when he’s finding his own place in the world where he feels connected, nourished by the deep, abiding sense of belonging, that place is near crashing waves or between mountain or in the shadows of trees, not in front of a screen or in a mall or on the streets.

I’ve been asking more questions – why am I here and am I doing enough? The question can sound so big, and yet my work at a non-profit the past four years has taught me that meaningful change begins with a smile or glance. We don’t save the world all at once, and when we think in those terms, getting started can be paralyzing.

My beginning will be this Thursday night at 7 p.m. at a meeting with the Forest Service at the Big Ivy Community Center (540 Dillingham Road just 25 minutes from Asheville) to save the old-growth forest from logging. For more information, check out Friends of Big Ivy. I hope to see you there, making time and space in your own busy lives to protect the sacred places where we go for fun and play, to wonder and imagine.