The image of the river has assumed a sacred and spiritual effect to many cultures throughout time, from the Euphrates in the story of Adam and Eve, to the Ganges, a river sacred to the Hindu in India.
Today I am reflecting on home, and how rivers have been intertwined with my life for over thirty years. The Eagle River (also the name of our town) begins its birth deep in the mountains a dozen or so miles upriver, flowing from a melting glacier, tumbling over bedrock and dividing into small sloughs. Tributaries from mountain melt-off contribute to the flow that is both constant and changing over time. The river metaphor is an obvious one whereas we are drifting through life as if flowing downriver, sometimes bruised by rocks and rapids, bending into eddies to catch our breath, and struggling to stay afloat until being carried off into calm waters. It is a place of safety and refuge (the one place where Huckleberry Finn could be himself), a place of soothing comfort as we listen to its flow while relaxing on its banks, and if we heed the collective wisdom of all those connective tributaries, we can learn to ride the river of life with care.
The first and last thing I see each morning and evening are mountains with a meandering river running through and these are the things that steady me. My love for the river doesn’t wane in winter when the water is frozen solid and the rush of water over rocks has vanished. The river then becomes a winding highway, still and serene in its beauty. We pack in the noise by taking our block party out to the river one sunny Sunday and engage in all kinds of sport: dog mushing, skiing, snowball fighting, hot dog roasting, and general yakking over a few good beers. Then when the sun disappears over the mountain, we pack up the kids and dogs and gear and ski out drenched to the bone with fatigue and vow to make a tradition of a spring party on our beloved river next year.
So this is my love letter to rivers. May they always feed and heal and teach us how to live. May they meander, and straighten and rush and become still. And may they enable us to enjoy our friends and neighbors….even on a cold winter’s day.
“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.” (Norman Maclean)