My visit begins and ends at the river. It's neither intentional nor accidental; it just is.
I feel the draw as soon as I arrive in the valley and catch my first glimpse of the water that streams through its heart. With hugs and greetings out of the way, I head towards its waters with the delight of seeing a long lost friend. The path that leads the way has subtly changed; the gardens altered with passing of the months and a new gate bolt that momentarily halts my progress. But the way is still familiar, walked several hundred times before.
I didn't realise what I'd been missing until I sink into its cool waters. I return home in its embrace and let go, released and remembered. Every stroke takes me further into the feeling of peace and I forget about all that has passed and is to come. I heal.
I've swum in countless spots along this river, but no other draws me back like this place. Every time I feel the same wonder as the first. Each visit has a unique magic. These waters have washed countless tears from my eyes, heard my laughter echo across its surface, born witness to the birth and deepening of countless friendships, listened to my secrets, and held me when I didn't know where to turn. I have watched it change with the seasons; the snow capped beach in winter that bore my first chilly dip of the year, the swell and flood caused by snow melt that renders this spot temporarily hidden, and the slow moving waters of the late summer, where twisting currents cause wonderful eddies that spin you in unexpected paths through the water.
Over the week on the farm I return at least daily. I reach points of peak stress with the festival work, when I don't know how to carry on. But the river draws me back; it centres and grounds me. It always has the answer. The worries and difficulties suddenly seem surmountable. Restored and replenished I return to my task.
During the festival, I sneak down to the beach in the early hours of the morning. During the day I've been sharing the space with countless other people, but now I revel in the experience of it being just mine, even for a few minutes. I listen to the music rolling down the banks from the stage, my friends voices entwining with the gurgling water of the river. I lie back and watch the meteor shower above, and experience one of those rare moments of true contentment. Then I cry for the river; I cry for everything it has given me; the joy and the healing. I cry because it's no longer a daily part of my life and I miss it so. I cry because I can't have both there and here.
On my last night I head down to the shores with new friends, people I didn't know during that first swim. People who've been drawn to this place and this land like I have. People who, like me, love this river. And for a moment, we share in its beauty.
In the chaos of leaving on my final morning, I find a moment to slip away. I walk across the rocky stones to my favourite corner, where the cool waters drop away quickly to become a deep, currentless pool. I undress quickly, feeling more comfortable here in my nakedness than anywhere else, and step into the waters that still hold a little of the night's chill. I duck completely under, holding myself down for a split second as I focus on the future; what I want to take from here. I come up, clean and renewed and ready to face the world once more.