Please forgive the length of this post - if any of you should actually choose to read it all - it has been brewing in me for sometime and when that is the case, things tend to ferment, metabolize, and grow.
It is not uncommon for me during this time of year, as hints of summer begin to appear, that I set my mind and its thoughts toward the local rivers. I have always loved rivers, though I am not entirely sure why. I have vivid and sometimes scary memories of canoeing the Little Ohio River and fishing Beaver Creek back in Ohio as a young kid – ah yes, when a 4-inch minnow was consider a monstrous catch! Moving to Southern California put an end to much of my river and stream fascinations for a time, for as much as those who live their try and deny it (with sprinklers and vast irrigation systems), that land is a parched desert. Rivers would make only an occasional appearances during those rare times when the blue canopy turned to grey and the vast concrete channels would fill, but the land’s brownness would remain.
When I moved to Washington to go to College, I can still my remember my amazement at how green everything was…I had never seen so much green…and it was late summer! Rain, rain, rain…indeed the polar opposite of my experience just north of Mexico. But the snow pack keeps the rivers full as they meander their way down to Puget Sound from the scenic Cascades…and they are full of salmon and steelhead.
The renewing of my love affair with rivers would begin with Whitewater Rafting, a sport which, here in the Northwest with its hundreds of rapid waterways, seems to have a ceaseless supply of new adventures. The advent of children slowed this adventuring spirit, and when my wife and I decided to buy a house we knew we had precious little money and so opted for a region we could afford; we found ourselves along the Skykomish River in the small town of Sultan. In that same time period of my life, I began to recover from my temporary religious furlough and while settling into our new home I found myself spending more and more time along the banks of that beautiful river. At first just exploring, watching, perhaps praying…but soon I would take a rod and reel in hand to try and experience the wonder of the quarry that lies beneath those often deep green waters.
Thankfully, I would find a father to guide me. Like the spiritual life, he showed me the way and I began to see fruit. Many a warm, wet summer day and a cold wetter still winter day would be spent drifting upon those waters…and I learned to recognize by popular name each and every hole, each and every rapid, each and every bend; where to stop and fish and where to keep on drifting along. But no matter what, the beauty of it all is inspiring and even as I sit here typing I can hear and feel the gentle sounds of the water trickling underneath my anchored driftboat. I can picture the pre-sunrise mornings when the water temperature is slightly greater than the air and the river oozes clouds, while unseen salmonids teasingly leap and slap the water all around me. I can feel the strength of the great fish…that initial heartbeat skipping lurch of the fishing rod…fish or no: this is paradise. But I can also hear the booming roar of her rapids, a warning that demands my sobriety and attention.
You see the river is not mine. As much as I might call her so, I know better. She is so much bigger than me, so much older than me and she could kill me in a moment if she should find herself so inclined. She is beautiful…but powerful beyond belief. I have watched her rip and carry away entire trees in her flooded wrath. And I have also watched the rescue helicopters search her lengths, trying desperately and futilely to find the imprudent individual who tempted her and rode her with a $4.00 grocery store bought raft and a case of beer towed behind in an inner tube. Sometimes she would permit such a blasphemy, but not always. She is not a tame river, and approaching her ought to be not unlike how we approach prayer…with a certain understanding of the dangers we put ourselves in. In this vein of thinking I am reminded of the traditions of the Church and how they prepare us – just like the wisdom of the old men who have ridden these rivers for decades and whose fathers before them did the same are able to provide us newbies with the necessary cautions and techniques to safely push off from shore.
I long for the season to begin…fish or no: I want to hear and feel her.
...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 2:09 PM [+]