A river takes you where it will. You have little control. You swirl and twist. You go slow and fast. You raise your face to the sun and let the river take you. The earth spins, you spin, and you let go over every concern, worry, fear. You trust the river to get you safely to Terra Firma, eventually.
I have floated, in one form or another, many rivers. Big ones. The Mississippi, the Nile, the Ayeyarwady, and the Colorado. These rivers gave me a sense of going somewhere: Luxor to Aswan, Lee’s Ferry to Phantom Ranch, Mandalay to Bagan. These river trips also gave me a sense of mission, importance. But still, the swoosh-swoosh of waves, the gentle rocking, and the forward propelling relax me and dissolve my worries and my fears.
I also know smaller rivers, like the Flambeau in northern Wisconsin, that we used to float in high water in canoes over boulders and rapids; and the Minnehaha through central Minneapolis, were we slid under bridges and by golf courses, as if by afterthought.
This last weekend I came to know the Wenatchee River. Flowing from Lake Wenatchee, where we caught it, in the central Cascades, it flows to the Columbia in central Washington, and eventually to the Pacific. It was a warmish July day, the water was colder than we expected, but the sun was pinned gloriously above us. Ponderosa Pines, blue sky, clearwater, and rocks. Occasionally a trout skipped the surface.
It’s been a tough year in the news. Mass shootings, police violence, and terrorism. Orlando, Istanbul, Paris, Brussels, and countless other places. It’s hard to keep track. I can’t remember the last time the flags flew at full mast. Then there’s politics. Trump, a failed coup in Turkey, and an endless war in Syria. The world appears to have gone mad.
But the river took me away. If only for a minute or two.
Life, and the river, will take us where it will. We can only hope that, in the end we have the right boat, and the right paddle, to get us to the illusion of safety on solid land.