About ½ mile into the woods on a trail I have been running regularly since last spring, a rotting bridge straddled the creek. A sign, with a crude stop sign shape and the words STOP: Dangerous Bridge painted in red, was affixed to the handrail. Every time I approached the bridge, I did stop. I read the sign, contemplated the risks and proceeded, picking my steps carefully so as not to fall through the holes or the rotting wood ready to give way at any moment.
My pause before stepping on to the bridge and my slow progress across meant that I had time to look around. I noticed the height and flow of the water. I noticed the rocks that protruded and those that were submerged. I noticed the trees on either side of the creek and the darkness of the forest floor in this particular place with its dense canopy.
And every time I paused there, I had an extra breath to notice that crossing a divide takes time and intention. It can be daunting and it can be exciting – and, usually it doesn’t really matter where the crossing lives on the spectrum between “piece of cake” and “here goes nothing”. The only way to get to the other side is to put one foot in front of the other until I reach the other side.
A few weeks ago, a group of volunteers replaced the bridge with a new one. The new one is lower, safer and well aligned with the trailbed on either side. It does a much better job of protecting human travelers from accidents and also protecting the stream bank from erosion. The new bridge is comfortable to approach, travel across, and step off. The last few times that I have run this way, I have appreciated the simplicity of the wooden structure and the craftsmanship of the rock cribbing on one side of the bridge. But I have run right through the creek valley without noticing the condition and contour of the earth, the rusty water, or the dappled sunlight. Without the dangerous bridge inviting me to pause, I have travelled through this place caught in the thoughts in my head instead of aware of the presence of the forest. I have not only missed the opportunity to connect with this bit of land, I have missed the opportunity to acknowledge the necessity of making each crossing with intention.
While I miss the pause, I appreciate the uninterrupted flow, the continuity created between the two sides of the bridge. The bridge creates unity.
I am yearning for this coming together in so many aspects of our social dynamic. We need to tend to the bridges of connection in our communities and nation so that we may better recognize our interconnectedness. Despite our apparent encampment on either side of political or social divides, we are one human family. I believe that we––all of us––are more alike than we are different. And sometimes the bridge is safe and accessible, and the movement feels easy. Other times, the bridge is rotting and dangerous but crossing, and pausing to stand in the middle to take stock of the landscape, is the path to wholeness.
This bridge is a threshold,
Between there and here
between then and now
A place of transition
A posture of possibility
A mode of connection
A practice of trust
We must build
from both sides
We must build
from both sides.