Friday, February 13: River Awakening

I’m lying in bed looking out my east facing window where the morning light illuminates the first red flowers of the geranium on its ledge. The sky is a mix of eggshell blue and grey-tinged clouds over the hill emerging through the melting snow.

East or west, February is one of my favorite months. Whether there’s snow or rain or sun, the promise of spring is evident. There’s a different bend to the light. Days are noticeably longer. Here on the east slope of the North Cascades, the days have been in the 40s melting snow and earth. Patches of long bunch grass poke out of our land like a hairy coat. Whips of new growth shine red and gold on shrubs and trees. Their leaves and buds will be months in coming, but their sheer radiant vitality is a showy bloom of its own.

Most notable here is the change in the river. With the trees still bare, it is clearly visible from above, forking and branching its way east. Throughout the year, it rises and falls with the seasons, gathering snowmelt in the spring, it gains volume of body and sound. For months at a time, it is my aural companion even these hundreds of feet above. Its song comes into the silence, softly at first and by late spring and early summer a constant crescendo of water music.

This week, it has picked up enough volume to make itself heard even in doors. It’s like a parade in the distance making its way toward me. What a welcome addition to the mix of incidental sounds in a landscape so generally devoid of the man made. As I write, snowmelt pings on the metal roof like rain. Flies buzz against the glass. Outside, the rooster crows. Beneath that is the paradoxical white “noise” of deep silence with its shifting pitches and pulses, the celestial music. And mingling with that esoteric sound, the river.

Poets and visionaries have sung of rivers in every language of every culture where water runs freely from mountain to sea. Rivers are our mothers, giving birth to our fragile civilizations through their rich flood plains and their essential gift of water. Of the four elements, water feels the most palpably feminine. Fluid. Drenching. Quenching. We swim in water fishlike before birth and float out of the womb on its tide.

To live on a river is a great blessing. It is a constant gift of wisdom. If you are lost, it will lead you. If you are parched it will refresh you. If you are in its way it will carry you, sometimes to safety and sometimes to harm. It is impersonal and cold and constant. It will forgive you your expectations and show you what is. You can have no better companion. Not even a tree can love you like a river.

Listen. It is calling you right now. Your name is its song.

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