The River Castletown

She looked into the screen and waved goodbye to her students. Closing her textbook, she switched off the laptop, the diminishing icon heralding the end to her online classes for the day. Her mood was unusually low, these were strange times after all. Perhaps some fresh air might lift the heaviness from her mind.
The grounds of Castletown park were quiet. Quieter still by the water’s edge. It was that in between time of day. Mothers and restless toddlers had retreated home. The newly hatched army of online worker bees were making honey in makeshift home offices. No doubt they would arrive at the river later, seeking solace in the sea of green. Forest bathing. Good for the soul, they say.
She sat, close to the water’s edge. Closed her eyes. Listened. The water whispered near her. She let its music and the accompanying silence wrap themselves around her depleted self. In this silent space she felt, deep inside, a nudge, her consciousness was pushing her to understand why she felt so low. Opening her eyes her attention was caught by a flash of white. A swan rounded the bend in the river. Scolded by their mother, her cygnets caught up and the proud little family swam gracefully down river. She remembered shepherding 30 lively students into the classroom, their collective energies bouncing off the walls until she, swan-like, gathered them to her for the journey downriver.
A thrum of flies hovered over the water. She thought she could hear the humming of their wings, it became the thrum of teenagers floating half-formed ideas in their minds, before bravely finding their voices, anxiously hoping for each other’s approval. She nodded to herself, lost in this memory, proud of their daring.
She watched the trees on the far side of the water, gently swaying, each branch dancing a rumba to the beat of the wind. The leaves, sure of how they should move, and yet, some refused to follow the steps, preferring to improvise and dance freestyle. So like my students, she mused. Two birds sat atop a nearby rock lodged in the water. Gossiping the news of the day. Suddenly, unnerved by some invisible entity, one bird spread its wings and flew away into the breeze. The abandoned bird darted its head left and right, confused, searching for surety in this new unwanted and unexpected solitude.
She’d glimpsed this confusion before. Another memory. March 12 She had watched her students absorb the tsunami that the doors to their one safe place were to be shut to them. Lost little birds atop a rock, confused in their new unwanted and unexpected solitude.
A chill goose pimpled her bare arm as the weak sun surrendered to the clouds. It was time to leave. As she moved, she leaned down to scratch her ankle, bitten by an indignant ant, in a bold display of territorial warfare. His friends scurried close by, scattered but united in a shared purpose. She thought then of her colleagues, also scattered. She imagined them now, reaching in and out, up and
down the information superhighway. Did they have days like this too? She watched the water foam and rush over stones in the river and marvelled at how, despite the obstruction, it confidently regained its natural flow on the other side. Instinctively. Witnessing this ceaseless flow of the river unlocked in her a moment of epiphany. She saw that these unsettling times were like a monumental rock in the river of life. And just then, she knew. Knew that she, they, everyone, would prevail. That we would find our natural flow, on the other side. Instinctively. She smiled. There was calm, a peace, a return to herself. She stood up, and stepped onto the river path, it felt solid underfoot, its steadiness leading her home.