A Moment of Peace

Pragya NatarajanAugust 21, 2019Fear and AnxietyAwesome Moments

The paper field guide was starting to flop slightly in its dampness. Was it my nervousness or the river’s mist? I thought, “I have to clench my fists and plow through it.”

In Cupertino, California, middle schools take an annual eighth grade Yosemite trip. Ever since I heard about this experience, I've wanted to attend. When the time for the trip began, I stayed in a hotel room and was put into a hiking group for the actual educational experience. The leaders of our hiking groups focused solely on teaching us about understanding nature rather than learning about what the field guide advertised. They believed in having a spiritual connection to nature and gave us different writing prompts every day.

These prompts were made to inspire us and strengthen our connection to nature. On the first day, we were told to write a poem about the river we were near. In the slushy snow near the river rapids, I finished my poem quite easily, as I write poetry on a regular basis. Bored because I was finished and the hiking group leaders didn't call us together, I stood up and started looking for my friends. When I ventured out of the cold snow I was sitting on, my nature guide, Uncle Mike, noticed I was up and asked to see my work, confused as to whether I wrote anything or not. I was panicking, because I'm not the type to be called out for insubordination.

I walked over tentatively and passed him my notebook. "This is good, but can you read it out loud for me?" he asked. Reciting my poem nervously, I noticed a few errors and smoothed those out while talking. He had me recite it a few more times since he couldn't hear what I was saying. My heart was racing as I had to repeat it a few more times. Is something wrong with my work? Is he just doing this to toy with me? The teacher supervisor for the hiking group listened eagerly as well.

I stopped mumbling when he asked me to recite it for the third time. "I'll tell everyone the time for work is over. Once I gather the group, present your poetry for the spirit moment," he told me. I was a confused mess. Did the nature guide like my work? Once the entire group stood in a circle, he asked them to close their eyes and listen to the rushing of the river whilst listening to my poetry. My legs were jelly in my nervousness, but the fact that the rest of the group's eyes were closed helped significantly. The words tumbled out of me for the first stanza, and I was asked to speak louder.

Gaining a surge of confidence, my words started to flow like the river we were standing near. It seemed as if the river itself was rushing just for me to tell its story, the small little part of its story that I had documented, that had no significance in the grand scheme of reality, yet filled me with such tranquility that I just felt at complete peace with myself and couldn't process anything around me. This is what I read to the group.

The River

Hearken to the river
As she contains no spite
Rushing freely with loud rapids
Endless in continuity
Even with boundaries

As it narrates its tale
Serene it remains in its song
As you shall rejoice and wail
Whether or not it’s very long

“Mother nature feeds me my essence,” it says
“As I speak loudly, crashing thundering
You’d be lost without my presence
Remaining in ecstasy, my thrumming leaves you wondering

Loud and proud
I’m too pure a being
Take a step tentatively
And be sure not to crowd

My roots are of sustenance
Sustaining others meekly
As I loosely flow
Nurturer to many

Clawing for my life
My babies are begging
One child insubordinate
Tortures me, slowly, slowly”

My nerves seemed to dissolve. I was no longer surrounded by judgmental people, but by classmates with closed eyes, feeling the rush of the river and its song while I tried my best to tell its story. With the completion of the first stanza, I began to hear the trickling of water and to enjoy the chill mountain air. It became easier to enunciate every word as my mind began to spiral outside the limits of Yosemite. The snow and slushy water flooded my boots, making the mud under my boots very unstable, but I didn't particularly notice or care. Absorbed in the exhilarating moment, I felt there wasn't anything that could take me away from the enthralling river and its swirling white foam. And then Uncle Mike told everyone to open their eyes.

As reality became an anchor dragging me to earth, everything rushed back into my head in a large wave. I was in Yosemite, with people listening all around me, but that no longer mattered to me. Being very tired from hiking, I simply wanted to go back and play in the snowbank outside the hotel where I was staying.

This moment on the first full day in Yosemite is one I'll never forget in my entire life. That feeling of being spiritually connected with the river while enjoying its soothing crashing. I realized that day that no one cares unless you make them care. And I don’t mind that no one really cared because that moment is a crystal memory. One with jagged edges of doubt, with pure bliss at its core.

Pragya Natarajan is a tenth grader at Cupertino High School in California. Her hobbies are watching animated tv shows, running, reading, writing, and art. Her favorite color is red, and she loves interacting with people.