Last night I was drenched in a twilight lullaby. The hum of that first river.
The first wading step into a forever. Wading into a forever that soaks. A forever that saturates. A forever that cannot dry out.
Not a forever that fades and falls or a kind of forever ago.
But an inseparable forever after.
When I walked down to the river that first day, I’m not entirely sure I went knowing I would fall in so deep. I’m not sure I went to the river knowing why I was going and I’m not sure I even had the choice; my will altogether absent from some crashing inevitability.
It is possible the river moved to me. Maybe I just stood still long enough and it meandered toward my feet, rose up past my waist and bathed my heart. Or maybe we wandered toward each other, falling into one another. Its runs and riffles perfusing my arteries; my sweat and tears cutting channels into its currents. Feeding its headwaters. Rolling over its stones.
I fished the river every day that summer. I stood and stared and listened for as long as the river needed me to, and it did the same. From sunrise till long past sunset and into dawn again I cast out my heart under cloudless endless skies and hauled back in return Enough. I reeled in all I needed. It sustains me still.
After the summer’s air began to cool and the evenings came earlier I would still wade the river as often as I could, and on into winter as snow settled on its banks. Ice bound up the reel and closed over the guides, but it didn’t matter. What mattered was that I held onto every drop of its water, listened to every cascade. All that mattered was going in, keeping myself from drying out. Giving attention to every ripple. Casting to every rise.
Eventually I moved away, or maybe the river did. Changing currents or circumstance, a wandering bank, I’m not sure how or why. Perhaps another inevitability. I tried to stay, went back as often as I could, tried to bend the river in my direction. Even tried to ride it all the way to its mouth, hoping I’d be recycled. Sucked up into clouds and dropped as rain over its tributaries.
In time the visits became less frequent. The distances grew and kept me from wading much at all and now I can’t remember the last time I threw my line around that river.
I still think about it. It’s where my thoughts often return. There may be a missing -in a sense. A longing. Though some place inside where the current still pulses the river quenches my every cell. It’s in the splash of every rising fish. It cradles each cast.
I am left to assume -or hope, that I still pour over its stones and cut channels in its currents.
I don’t know that I can walk to that river anymore, or that I need to -if I knew how to find my way back. It’s so much a part of me, and I can still stand and stare and listen. It’s in the hum of that twilight lullaby.
And I can never be the same.
I’ve been skipping like a stone over her ever since.
Floating across the surface. Just above. Tapping. Touching.
Then sinking as a wish.
-jw (photo high on the MF Snoq. 2007)