A glowing orange sun scatters a dusty reflection across the steel-blue river, while a flock of geese fly toward the horizon – black silhouettes of wings and beaks. In the distance, a majestic cone of snow, rock and ice hovers stoically. There is no sight better for my morning commute than a rising sun over Mt. Hood and the Columbia River as I cross the bridge, and state line, from Oregon to Washington.
It’s become a daily practice to take in the view on my way to and from work, and I’ve noticed that it is never, ever the same.
When we had a cold-snap in Portland, the river was hidden under a veil of rising fog, causing the monstrous mint-green bridge stretching across the water to be nearly hidden, with only the tallest arches visible, peeking out above the smoky clouds. On that day, I gripped my steering wheel and practically held my breath while crossing the river. It scared me to not be able to see my surroundings and I reached the opposite bank feeling grumpy and frazzled.
On another night, while heading home, I looked to my left from the center of the bridge and in the cloak of dusk, I saw a yellow, glowing beam of light moving across the dark water. Behind the spotlight was a large object gliding across the water toward the bridge. In the split-second that I saw it, I imagined it was a giant whale and the light its eye. On second thought, it was probably just a large boat carrying freight. But it’s much more fun to let my creative mind fill in the details.
The repetition of crossing the river twice a day has gotten me thinking about how I cross the bridge, meaning what attitude I carry with me and how I face the omnipresent anxiety of being suspended over a giant, powerful body of water until I reach the other side. It’s become a metaphor for trust, which takes practice. Some days, I feel stressed and afraid, my back is tense and I look straight ahead, wishing I’d reach the other side quicker. I can practically feel the churning waters below me and my thoughts become panicked. But on other days, when I’m feeling present and grateful, I scan the horizon in awe and wonderment. I glide over the bridge ease-fully and relaxed. I know the other side will come when I reach it. I’ve noticed that my mornings are significantly happier and more meaningful when I cross the bridge this way, as opposed to panicked and distrusting.
Now with a slight shift of perception, we could translate the bridge to represent any difficult point in our lives – a transition, a relocation, the end of a relationship, an episode of depression or deep confusion.
Are you beginning to see the metaphorical bridges that you personally cross? Good, then I will pose this question to you, which is one I’ve been asking myself a lot lately; how do you cross the bridge? Do you grip the wheel, grit your teeth and hit the gas pedal to speed through the discomfort? Or do you sing out-loud to pass the time, take in the view, trusting all the while that you will reach the other side not only intact, but wiser and stronger from the experience?
My goal is to aim for the latter and cross the bridge feeling grateful that there is a bridge at all. (At least I don’t have to swim across the river!) My theory is that if I can trust the surface beneath me and the trajectory of my progress moving across it, then maybe, just maybe, I can trust the transition from uncertainty to certainty. Maybe I can trust the path I’m on, even though there isn’t a map to it.
Whatever the bridge is that you are crossing, I hope that you find a way to enjoy the journey and pause to relish in the details. There’s raw beauty in there somewhere, and I believe it is patiently waiting for your keen eye to discover it.