Pail by Pail

“Enough pails of water—a river.”
-Ancient Proverb

Because it’s been ages, I ventured beyond the borders of my own few-mile space in an effort to reconnect with something resembling a world bigger than my own. I stayed outside 1) because COVID cases are surging and 2) because we have a rare blip of goldilocks perfection on the Texas-weather radar and Lord knows I could use not only the vitamin D and fresh air, but the reminder that a whole wide wonder still exists out there.

I found myself wandering along a bayou—a common waterway out here in SE Texas—when I came upon a display:

“Enough pails of water—a river.” – Ancient Proverb

I wondered, if they were sentient, would bayous, creeks, and streams strive to be rivers? Ponds, lakes and lakes, oceans? 

But before spending too much time personifying bodies of water and inevitably jotting down a plot to a children’s book about the bayou who wanted to be a river and then saving that half-idea as an untitled document on my computer for the rest of time, I moved to wondering about my own pails of water. I think at one time, I might have been a river, but these days, to call myself a trickle would be a stretch.

I walked on, finger-tapping the syllables to my thumbs: “Enough pails of water—a river.” 

I think of myself as not much more than a drip right now because, well, that’s the place I’ve chosen. And I think that’s good. It’s allowing me to choose my path carefully and thoughtfully instead of flash-flooding in some direction that I think I should be going only to find out that, well, maybe that wasn’t the right path.

There’s a lot of pressure in this society to have shit figured out and figured out now, otherwise you won’t succeed. It’s how I ended up with a college degree that I don’t use and a mound of student loan debt—because that’s just what you do if you don’t want to get left behind. But left behind from what? Everyone else? What about yourself?

“Enough pails of water—a river.”

One can only add a single pail at a time, double if you’ve got one of those contraptions you can carry over your shoulders….but I guess what’s struck me about this proverb is the deliberateness of it: one pail at a time. Pail by pail, you carve your track through the rocks until one day, enough pails of water and look at that—a river. Your river. Your direction. Your path. 

I’ve given myself permission to take my time. To move thoughtfully and carefully. To make time for rest, healing, and regeneration. To honor the days where I can barely get out of bed and to appreciate the days when I am able to create another divet in the rocks. 

And that’s okay. No…not just okay. It’s good. It’s good to slow down, to take your time, to think about the now, of course, but also the destination and how you want to get there. To see, feel, and experience the power of your own creativity. To watch your efforts take shape knowing that you…you…did that.

…to be kind along the way and respectful of others and where they may be in their process. To stop carrying pails every once and a while to walk along a bayou for some fresh perspective.

It’s why I’ve been neglecting my blog. Why this particular post will probably end without any sort of big reveal or revelation or even any real satisfying conclusion. I’m charting my course right now. I’m making decisions about the twists and turns I want to (or am willing to) take. I’m imagining where I’ll end up and how scenic a route I want along the way. That takes time.

It takes one pail at a time. Enough pails of water—a river.

6 thoughts on “Pail by Pail

  1. Joyce Sauter

    great and needed reminder. per Thich Nhat Hanh the purpose of life is to live it. per me, the rest is up to us, including our own definition of success. thank you for your beautifully expressed thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

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