Mourning River

News of a massacre in a New England elementary school shocked many parts of the geneseehuman world. As someone with about 15 years of teaching at the elementary and middle school levels, as one who’s participated in annual lock-down drills with students, I should have an understanding of what went wrong at the Newtown, CT elementary school, but I can’t get my head around the tragedy there. I can only sympathize with the families of the victims, and wish that the madness of this world was less violent than it is.

rifflingI walked into the cold December river. Hearing the splash of water and a distant raven’s craaw!,  I paraphrased four lines from Bob Dylan’s “Watching the River Flow”:  …If I had wings and I could fly/ I know where I would go/ But right now I’ll just stand here so distractedly/ And watch the river flow…”

To fly fish Saturday on the river I tried to focus on the dark deep currents. There is comfort in such places but it’s difficult to hold. An angler from Syracuse, fishing the opposite bank, approached me from across the river and said, “I didn’t expect to find anyone fishing here today!” Perhaps he too had been called by the healing powers at the wild heart of a river.

I drove downstream several miles and parked by a quiet bridge. I entered the woods for a short distance, stepped out to an opening and slid down a bank to the water. I waded into a slough with a bottom slippery as clay. Clambering out to a small island of the river, I began to wonder if I was turning into a beaver. If so, I was hefty enough to be worth about $35 to the local trapper. But when I finally entered the main channel again, my feet were in shoes and the fur of my imagination had been cut away and dried…blend

A rise form bulged just beyond the middle of a pool. Converting my leader to accommodate wet flies rather than streamers, I thought about the anguish and pain caused by a soul turned evil in the winter light, but my thoughts were pale and fleeting. I loaded up the line and its payload of tandem flies. I studied the seam of river current where the fast waters and the slow intermingle. The flies dropped, as directed.

This, I thought, is where the river flows and carries me. It’s here that I find and love that nature so indifferent to our being.river bridge

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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6 Responses to Mourning River

  1. Leigh says:

    As a resident of Sandy Hook, you cannot imagine the sadness that our community is experiencing. I have two young daughters, and while luckily they did not go to that school, we know families that were impacted. This truly is a quiet, tight knit community and this will not easily be forgotten. At some point I will need to find my own mourning river. Please pray for our families.

  2. argosgirl says:

    I too, headed to the river on Saturday. It seemed so necessary.

  3. Argosgirl,
    Rivers and streams can be therapeutic, thanks be…

  4. jehord says:

    I didn’t head for the river, but I did spend Saturday morning and afternoon in the woods, not really hunting although that was my excuse. I think I just needed a place to be alone with my thoughts. As a teacher, it hit me on several levels, and I think nature provided the solace that I needed that day.

    • Joseph, As teachers and parents, the events of the day had to strike us hard, and some of us knew enough to step out when we could. Not everyone is going to find solace in the woods and on the rivers, but for those of us who do find it there, the natural world is indispensable.

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