Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Few Minutes Short

When I saw the cascade of water over the rocks in the creek to my right, I stopped the car. This must be it -- the much praised Falling Water Falls I had heard about from my friends. Ninety minutes of driving along winding Ozark byways, and there it was, finally.

Ever since the new camera arrived this week, I have been itching to get out into the wilderness around me and capture a few shots. The weather today was perfect with a few wispy clouds overhead, a slight breeze, and a comfortable 65 degrees. It was a perfect day. When I left the house, I popped an Elton John CD into the stereo and let Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy serenade me along the road. Thirty-five years since I first heard it, and I still know every word. 

This was a perfect day for exploring and relaxing. The Magic of Myth class I am currently taking is one week along, and the course, along with other classmates, are opening many doors in my thinking. The class explores the myth of Amor and Psyche, an epic tale of challenge, perseverance, and growth. The teacher is the enchanting Elizabeth Duvivier of Squam Art Workshops, who guides the class along paths of thinking and then encourages participants to indulge their own interpretations. More than just a story of a woman on a journey in ancient times, Psyche's challenges can be expanded to explain the human condition and what makes us tick. 

The questions our teacher left us to ponder this weekend were that of failure. Toward the end of the tale, Psyche is given a task with specific instructions not to do something, which, of course, is exactly what she did. She failed at following the orders, something we have all been guilty of doing and suffered consequences because of it. But -- could there be a benefit from her failure? These were the questions the participants discussed this weekend, with each of us telling our stories of failure, what lessons we learned, and how we emerged. The brave words of my classmates were beautifully revealed in our compassionate circle where many of us seemed to hold hands through the computer screen and whisper, "I understand." 

The class discussion left me feeling inspired and connected. Layer onto that a gorgeous spring day, a new camera, and nothing on the schedule, and this day became a recipe for a road trip. I had to go see the waterfall I had heard about so much. One and a half times around the CD later, and I parked the car along a dirt road, next to the falls.

I carefully stepped around the rocks at the waters edge, hoping I did not fall in, or worse, drop the camera. It was our first trip together, this camera and me, so its well-being was first in my mind. The water was cool and crisp. The sound it made as it spilled over the rocky shelf was musical, and one that would easily put me to sleep if I closed my eyes a few moments. The clean blue-green water fell about two feet over the rocky landscape and swiftly moved downstream. It was a beautiful scene, but not quite as majestic as I had expected, gauging from my friends' remarks. Nice, pretty, glad I came, but drive all this way again? Likely not.

The drive back home seemed to take longer, but I am still not sure if I was driving slower from relaxation or if it was the disappointment of the falls that was slowing me down. Either way, I arrived home and immediately downloaded the new pictures to my computer. A friend of mine had just visited the falls the day before, posting pictures online, so I pulled his photograph to compare to mine. Hmmm . . . my falls look different than his. My falls are shorter. The water flow over the edge is more on the right side in mine and in the middle on his. And his creek looks wider.
Falling Water Creek, between Ben Hur and Witt Springs, Arkansas
I scurried to my book on Arkansas Waterfalls, which I had left on the kitchen counter, and turned to page 86. Had I missed a turn? No. A quick look at the map, and I saw I had made all the correct turns, followed all the correct roads. I was sure I had traveled Farm Road 1205 which paralleled the creek - I saw the big brown sign marked with "1205" - but why does my waterfall not look like his waterfall? Still unsure of the difference, I enlisted the help of Google Maps with the satellite imagery to help me make my case. I could not be wrong. I followed the map in the book! At least, what I remembered since I left it at home. I squinted my eyes. I zoomed the screen. I examined every detail of the satellite image before I noticed a sharp hairpin turn in the road by the actual Falling Water Falls, which was conveniently labeled on Google maps. I did not see such a turn in my travels. The dirt road I drove was slight curves and flat stretches. No hairpin turns. Where did I go today?

In a huff, I sat back in my chair and stared at the computer screen. Dang Google Maps, you sure are no help today. That is, until you sit back and view it from a little distance. Staring back at me was my answer -- I had stopped at a small cascade in the creek about a half mile before the waterfall I was searching. After I had taken my photographs, I hopped in the car and turned around in the road, heading back up the hill in the direction I came. I just did not travel far enough on the road to see what I had hoped to see. Only after returning from the 90-minute drive home did I finally realize how close I had been.

Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon, and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world. -- Jane Addams.

All I could do was laugh. Today's miscalculation was a failure on an extremely minor scale, and yet it illustrated the lesson of many of my biggest failures in life. I stopped short. I quit too soon. I did not give it quite enough time. I was impatient. I was tired. I was ready for the quest to end. All of these were reasons I had given myself to stop working toward a goal, and therefore, were the reasons I did not reach it. These were the reasons for my failings. Each one, an illustration of giving up five minutes too soon.

How different my life might have been had I given it a few more minutes.

Next weekend, I plan to return to Farm Road 1205 and look for Falling Water Falls again. This time, I will go a few minutes farther down the road to get what I really wanted. At least I know the way.


  1. What a beautiful photograph of the cascade you made it to!

    "How different my life might have been had I given it a few more minutes." Ah, your reflections are so open and honest! Isn't it funny how we keep replaying our lives in small ways, over and over, dancing around the crux of us? My failures have never been because I didn't try hard enough--oh, I tried. I worked and over worked, overstayed. Over-prepared. Without trust. Without relationship to that which I was seeking--because everything I sought I believed would finally make me complete and whole.

    And so, when I failed, it compounded the guilt, frustration and even deeper fear I felt that I was never going to be "enough" to manage life.

    But sometimes we get second chances, right? Do overs (like your upcoming return to Falling Water Falls.) I read recently while working through my Intensive Journal (Ira Progoff) that sometimes, even though we can't go back and undo our past choices, we can revisit those places--by journaling, meditation, deeper reflection--and pluck the seed of those intentions. Maybe those seeds weren't meant for the past anyway, but for where we are right now. We needed time to grow into ourselves. This idea gives me a bit of hope, as I survey my own failures.

    Thank you for sharing this link to your journal. I'm participating in Elizabeth's class also and... I've been stalling a bit on feeling the pain of my past failures. But I've got some deep reflection "myth" time coming this evening.. Reading your reflections has made me feel less...resistant to revisit those places.. It's time to go look for my own falls. Good luck finding your destination next weekend--though the journey does seem to have yielded some powerful seeds.

    1. Hello, Drena and Welcome! I so enjoy Elizabeth's class, and this reflection on failure has been insightful. Reading how others emerged from their setbacks gives me a new way of looking at things. The new view on old pains has yielded some long-overdue healing. And guilt? Guilt and I are old friends -- or should I say "frenemies". It was my sidekick for many years (and still shows up now and then). I loved what you wrote "Maybe those seeds weren't meant for the past anyway, but for where we are right now." Those words go straight to my heart. xoxo

  2. Rita, thank you for this post. I am in the Magic of Myth class too, but completely distracted by a big pile of work that comes to completion today, this evening. Your post helps nudge me along the way, to not turn back when I've reached this minor falls...go for the major ones. I too am resisting the failure writing, but you are such a wonderful example of taking it a little at a time. Much love and thanks, Suzi

    1. Thank you, Suzi, and welcome! Glad you enjoyed the post and am humbled by your words. The topic of failure is one I have been tackling -- I should say, writing about failure is one I have been tackling for almost two years. In what I call a last-ditch effort to figure out my life, I started writing about all the gut-wrenching lows in my past in a effort to see where I went wrong (and how I might get better). The process was cathartic and healing for me, and as it turned out, gave me a wee bit of a head start on this weekend's topic. Who knew it might come in handy?!?

      Here's wishing you a more relaxing time, minus big piles of work, and a chance to reflect on how far you have come. xoxo

  3. I love your writing! As I read I feel as if I am sitting there besides you, and that makes me smile. xo

    1. Hi Jennifer! Having you stop in to read my little ramblings makes me happy :-) xoxo


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