Wispy clouds floated overhead doing very little to block the warm summer sun. The light breeze caused the trees to sway as my tube floated slowly and haphazardly down the cool waters of West Virginia’s Cheat River. More than once I found myself humming the familiar melody of John’s Denver iconic “Country Roads” because the experience really was “almost heaven.”

This memory is from a float trip taken with my family during a gathering this summer. As I resume my “Reflections Along the Journey” weekly column following a summer hiatus, this casual float trip down the Cheat River seemed the perfect metaphor to reflect, share and interpret the journey. Somehow on that refreshing summer afternoon, life once again was put into proper perspective.

Sometimes, in the busyness of recent days, I return in my mind’s eye to the beauty of the river and listen for the tranquil sound of the splashing water against the smooth river rocks. These are the advantages of West Virginia living!

I have two frames on a wall in my office that remind me about the importance of the journey. One reads, “The Joy is in the Journey” and the other reminds me that “Life is a Journey Not a Race.” These pearls of wisdom caused me to ponder the lessons of a lazy summer float trip down the river. A few life lessons that I learned include:

  • Far too often we have little control over where the current takes us. We can fight it, or we can enjoy the journey.
  • It is quite simple to live so distracted that we miss the beauty and tranquility that surrounds us. Closing our mouths, opening our eyes and quieting our souls reveals an amazing world.
  • There are always rocks and bumps along the journey. They are overcome by simply going with the flow.
  • Due to a lack of rain there were occasional spots where the river was unusually shallow, and a member of our group got out and pulled our tubes as we held on to one another. During life’s journey there are times we need to accept the help of others, and we certainly always need to hold on to one another.
  • The tube held me up and kept my head above the water. For those of us who cling to faith, it is reassuring to rest in God’s hands and trust that God’s Spirit will sustain us.
  • Floating down the river with the members of my family was the best part of that memorable day. The company we keep along the journey is the best part of all.

With my river adventure now just a spectacular memory, the ebb and flow of life finds the students, faculty and staff back on campus and a new academic year underway at Davis & Elkins College. It means the lazy days of summer are behind us, but the lessons from the river are as relevant today as they were then. May those lessons guide your life and mine in this moment and around the next bend, as the journey continues.

Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College