Seeing with the river’s eyes


I was shocked to see this view of the flooded river from the sitting room window


male goosander chasing off another male on the river

It’s been a wild month with the river flooding in a very dramatic way.  I can’t normally see the river from the house, so it was a shock to see so much water  from my upstairs sitting room window. By contrast on a lovely afternoon with Selkie up on Dartmoor I had clear views right out to the Exe Estuary and across to the high moor, with a dusting of snow. But the most magical moment was early one Sunday morning on our daily walk along the river bank. In the space of one walk I captured on camera a dipper collecting nesting material, a pair of mandarin ducks mating (I didn’t realise til afterwards that’s what was going on!), and a male goosander chasing off another male, staking its claim on the female. Spring love of the river variety is indeed in the air.


dipper on a mossy stone in the river looking for nesting material


same dipper with nesting material in its mouth on the river bank

This month also saw the start of Lent, and I decided to commit myself to not buying anything new for the period.  The very first day my clock radio by my bed packed up. I’ve had it for at least 20 years, and my first thought was “I HAVE to replace it”: did this count as something new or not?! “I CAN’T manage without knowing the time if I wake up in the night”, I said to myself. So without further thought, I went and bought a replacement. Afterwards I felt a tad disappointed, so I started to question a bit more why I had made the Lenten commitment.


female mandarin duck eyeing up a male at Still Pool

It started on the 30 day retreat when I was reflecting on blockages to deepening my spiritual life. I wanted to take that a stage further and  see where the challenges really are for me around money.  My friend Jim Forest posted a timely piece by Merton in which he says “there is no spiritual life, only God and His word and my total response”. Well, at the start of this Lenten project my sense is that my “response” is very limited….

Then fortuitiously I read a piece by Cynthia Bourgeault, again quoting from Merton. He talks about “choice freedom” and “response freedom”. Choice freedom is when I can do what I want, I have the choice. “Response freedom” is when I’m in a situation where I don’t have a choice, but I choose how to respond. The key is about being having the internal freedom to choose how to respond in a challenging situation.


looking across to snow on high Dartmoor on a clear sunny February day

In my life as it is now I have plenty of choice, why do I want to challenge myself in this way? Because as Cynthia says in this same piece “There’s a subtle difference between a like that’s an ego having something it expected fulfilled and a joy in something because in a way it’s so unexpected… they have a different feeling to them, inwardly. And as you begin to learn to steer by those internal freedoms, you’ll answer your own question about where joy and pleasure and abundance live in your life.” Indeed.

My disappointment in my knee jerk decision to buy a replacement clock radio, was that I short-circuited that experience. And it was exacerbated by discovering that the red screen is hard for me to focus on.  So the irony is I still can’t see what the time is when I wake up at night – lol!



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One comment on “Seeing with the river’s eyes
  1. Eva Schiffer says:

    Choice freedom and response freedom. I like it. I’ll carry it around with me and see how it fits.

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