Sunday, April 3, 2011

The River Tells A Story

During a recent float down the upper Milwaukee River several of my friends and I marveled at the water in places we had never been since dams were removed. Stonefly hatches and crystal-clear water testified to the healing of the river. We found new runs through careful observation, marveled at flocks of buffleheads, wood ducks and a lone owl. Our raft glided silently over the renewed waters.
The river does tell a story.

The story is best read whilst seated by the side of the river, or standing a moment and contemplating. What is the height of the river? What is the temperature? Where would the fish be? What is the story of the day, Mr. River? The story changes every day. The plot meanders back and forth: it wallows, surges, and roars. Somewhere in there are the main characters, hidden in between the words. Did you just flip through the pages, or did you put on a metaphorical bathrobe and with a hot cup of tea, settle down in the couch corner for a good read? If you put on size 13 clown boots with studs and stomp on the pages, you will never understand the words.

We have to stop and slow down to listen. There are words in there, and bits of metaphorical poetry. Passages of Yeats or Frost. Melting snow trickles down from sun-hungry branches and plays a melody on the water. There is not just one story, but many: as many as there are turns in the river, or boulders on the bottom. We must observe with all our senses to absorb all the words. We must hear, see, smell, touch, and feel. We must close our eyes and think as well: observe and process. We must see between the currents, and observe the unobservable.

Then we can wet a line, and angle in harmony. After all, we should not be out to conquer a river, or a good poem, we should absorb it, and make it part of us. Part of our knowledge and love of life… fish hooked or not.