The River in my Heart

My first year and a half of college, I attended Texas State University in San Marcos. It was a difficult time for me. My father had died the previous year, my relationship with my best friend was disintegrating, and school itself was really rough. I felt very isolated, and everything in my heart was in complete turmoil. While exploring TSU one day, I found a dock on the far east side of the campus where long reeds of wild rice flowed in the current of the river. I started going there after my classes were over for the day, needing to escape dorm life, family struggles, and my own wild thoughts. It was beautiful, sunny, warm… but not always ideal. I needed quiet and privacy–and sometimes I got just that, but other times I ran into the rowing team or people swimming in the river. Eventually, I went looking for a backup plan, a place where I could be alone when the dock got too crowded. And I found it…

TSU has changed somewhat since I attended college, but back then there was an undeveloped area in the northeast corner of campus where a grassy field slowly transitioned into lush Central Texas woodland: a thousand heartbreaking colors of green, ivy draped in long coils around tree limbs, wildflowers, and shrubs. And farther in, an unexpected discovery: a beautiful little stream, a small tributary of the Blanco that winds its way through my heart still. I followed it east, rolling up my jeans and wading through the water in my flipflops, navigating tiny rapids and waterfalls until I reached an old gardening shed on the very edge of campus. Then I followed the creek back west, past the place where I had first entered. The stream gradually grew deeper and wider, until at last I crossed in knee-deep water to the boulders on the far bank. Here, the stream grew larger still, opening into the river, curving into a cool, shaded grove where trees hung over the water. I perched on one of the boulders with my feet dangling in the water and listened to the river’s gentle whisper, and ever so slowly all my heartache began to dissolve.

After that, I didn’t bother going to the dock anymore. That secluded creek became my sanctuary, and I went there almost every day. I watched crawdads and fish in the deep water beneath me, cried, screamed, sang, wrote poems and prayers and the beginning paragraphs of the story that would one day become my first novel. The river kept me sane when there was nothing else beautiful or good around me, and even now, over a decade later, it is still a place my heart considers home.

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