Unicoi Outfitters is north Georgia's premier guide service and fly fishing outfitter, located on the Chattahoochee River near alpine Helen. Look for fishing reports, gear and book reviews, and general musings here from our staff and guides.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The River

The River
© 2009 by David Lambert

How do we write of a river? Do we say that it passes us daily carrying life in every molecule? Do we tell of liquidity and a river’s willingness to surround and absorb, to enliven and dissolve. Do we mention the intimacy of its caress? That we feel its essence by its river baggage and know of its passing by its current and swirl and force?

Do we tell of the life of a river? The persistent volume coursing beneath? Do we name it by breath or depth? Define it by its banks, its flora, its color, location or length. Can we can only guess at the forces that engender its flow?

Do we say that a river moves unimpeded, carrying always downstream the debris of life, surrounding branch and boulder in a choreography of both nature and the natural, a dance of life and motion, a liquid ballet that knows neither stop nor stage.

In telling of a river, do we ask where the river begins; where it ends? Do we write that a spot of vapor condenses, mingles and becomes something larger--a trickle following the downhill track of unknowable earlier unities.

Do we say that trickles merge and unite, merge and unite? And those build freshets and rivulets which with time and travel unite to become creeks? That those creeks become streams and streams merge and unite and become the river?

And the river? Do we tell that the river seeks other rivers? That, through merge and travel they become something bigger, a singular, larger entity? Or do we say that rivers coalesce into a sea; and the sea into other seas. And so on, and so on, until they cover the earth. Do we say that this process is eternal, as never-ending as the earth itself and on this day it begins again? And ends again?

Or, do we write instead of the light that captures the river? Of surface shimmers in a silver dance, directed by currents and orchestrated by the breeze. Do we tell of swords of light that brighten the depths and of how their edges soften and bend to form a sort of liquid lambrequin, light curtains in an underwater orld. Do we say that we have seen the northern lights in the sunbeams of that world? Can we tell of a river without telling also of light?

Can we tell of nights when the moon hangs obliquely in eastern sky and how the river connects both eye and orb by a singular sulphur pathway? Of how that moonpath is ours and ours alone; and how no moonpath can be shared, that every eye will have its own? Do we tell of the jewels we find there and how we hold them tight to our chests, of how they are always and only ours, yet not ours to share?

Do we tell of dirty cotton days and wet light when the sky is all cloud and the river seems sullen and offers nothing but a dull metallic hush? Of the winds that push the leaden clouds and how they peck and fetch the water and spatter your body in a form of moving pointillism. Of the chill that comes with every hull slap and paddle lift. Do we write of the anticipation of a hot shower after such a day on the river, and of knowing that only hot water that can free us of that particular chill?

Or, do we write of solace in the passing water? Of quiet clarity in the morning light, of how it offers the simple luxury of peace? When we speak of the river, do we give it a character? Call it determined . . . persistent? Pensive? Do we say of the river that it has a singular will, that through it we find vigor and truth, comfort and peace? Do we find philosophy in the river? Can we say that the river is a friend; or, in doing so, do we beg too much in return?

How do we write of the river?

Do we tell of family and friends who have known river days river with us? Do we say those days are unique and cherished and that we pray for river memories when age and infirmity deprive us of all others? Do we say that is our only prayer?

Do we tell of a summer day, gauzy and soft lit. Of a son casting to a green spring pool? Of the joy of a wife now well and a radiance of river light scattering on a scarred but perfect body? Would we tell of the warmth of woodsmoke on a high river bank and the pure pleasure perfume it provides. Would we mention a drop-tongued pup who found courage at the river. . .and strength, and voice. Would we say that she was a foundling who found the river home?

Do we write of neighbors on the river? Of friends linked by purchase and pursuit, connected by a sandy path so white it shines us home on a moonless night. Would we say this river and these neighbors were an umbilical, a lifeline? That we have traveled parallel paths to this particular water. Could we write that these neighbors slept on this river and its sisters for generations? And they learn yet?

Would we write that the river forgives? That, if left alone, it will cleanse itself and think no worse of us for our imprudence. Could we say that a that it teaches forgiveness? That through time and trial and solitude we may learn to forgive—both others and ourselves

Do we tell of a river that speaks quietly, whispers the joys of illness gone and the grief of death come quick? Can we say that the river helps with both. That there is lucidity in the river voice? That we hear most clearly when we hear nothing?

Do we write the river records both our passage and our passing? Would we write that it cares for neither?

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