The trolling motor whirred along, nearly silent, as we crept through the swamp. The late afternoon sun shot between the towering cypress trees as the damp air pushed back against my face. We were making our way deep into the unknown with one simple objective: Free the creek.
Several days earlier we had pulled the main gate on our levee that restricts nearly eighty acres of nutrient-rich water in the marsh. This marsh is quite possibly one my favorite places on planet earth. From October to March every year it becomes home to thousands of migratory ducks. It’s a very special place indeed. It’s a place that I’ve come to crave on a deep soul level.
It’s not the hunting that drives my affection. It’s the way that this swamp makes me feel small. Each time I visit I feel like an invisible visitor. Nestled deep in the Alabama wetlands, I can infiltrate another world. I’ve spent more hours in this place than I can count, and many of those were not even in hunting gear. There’s just something amazing about being in the duck’s world.
The mission this day was to navigate down stream and find the blockage that was keeping the water from flowing free. Every year around this time we drain the marsh in order to turn the dirt and manage the habitat. This management is critical in ensuring that this fall the nutrients and food source will be ready to host our annual feathered guests. Without flow in the creek we would never be able to drain the water and prepare the land for the next season.
That’s the interesting thing about natural bodies of water, they are teeming with life in all sizes and species. Water provides life. It enables the natural cycle to continue from season to season. There are many factors that can affect the viability of life in our streams, creeks, and lakes. There is, however, one factor that can stop the cycle of life and shut the whole thing down. When water stops flowing it cannot sustain life.
In order for a body of water, no matter the size, to produce life, it must be in motion. There must be an inflow and an outflow. Once flow is stopped and water becomes stagnate everything we find useful and beautiful is compromised. Over time stagnate water begins to stink and become putrid. A body of water that stops flowing will soon become a grave yard full of lost potential. Plants that once thrived on the nutrients carried by the fresh water and served as a life source will wither and die. Without the plants, the insects and plant-eating animals will soon go hungry and fall victim to starvation. Finally, the magnificent and beautiful creatures who rule the food chain will, too, face the imminent fate of death by starvation.
In order for life to be sustained there must be flow. There must be movement.
My life is no different. Your life is no different. If we stop the flow we will soon wither. Our lives have inflow and outflow. Passion, encouragement, courage, and hope are all examples of things that flow into our lives. We, in turn, have to find outlets to pass those gifts along down stream to others. If we merely consume and do not contribute we will soon become stagnate pools and we can expect that at some point all those life giving ideals will wither and disappear.
Maybe this seems like a stretch, but I am sure of it in my own life. The most fulfillment I’ve been able to find in life has been in the seasons that I was able to continue the flow of my passion into someone else, or encourage someone else in their pain. The times that I’ve been able to share hope with someone who is hurting or cheered on a friend who is struggling have brought me so much peace. The seasons where I’ve been able to keep the flow going have been the best seasons.
As we continued down stream in the cypress swamp the water became deeper and suddenly it appeared. As we squeezed through two trees into a clearing we slowed the boat and gazed out in front of us. Stretching nearly eighty feet across was the largest beaver dam I’d ever seen. This rodent-made mud wall was solely responsible for blocking the flow of the creek. It was quite a sight. We made our way onto the dam and went to work breaking down the wall. In a matter of minutes the sound of rushing water filled the swamp as the dark water poured over the ledge through the newly renovated dam. Within hours the water level in the marsh was dropping, water was flowing, and life was returning.
Every good thing you’ve been given wasn’t intended for your sole consumption. We were bestowed the gift of managing all we’ve been given. Some for our enjoyment and some to be passed along to others.
Don’t stop the flow. Your life depends on it.