Saturday, 7 September 2013

Let’s Go Down to the River

“All right, bud, let’s go!” says Al, hoisting the fishing pole over his shoulder. Solay picks up the net, and they’re off, opa and his apprentice, across the road, down the trail, and to the river.

The river is called the Puntledge, and it’s only a few hundred meters from our home, at the end of a trail across the street. When our grandchildren come for a visit, the trip is not complete unless we can go to the river. In summer, everyone swims in the shallows or tubes down its rushing waters; in fall, we watch the salmon jump, and throw a line into the water; in winter, we watch and listen to winter wrens and kinglets flitting through the underbrush while eagles soar overhead, and in spring, there’s no prettier sight than thousands of trilliums and fuschia-coloured fawn lilies blooming along the river’s banks.

What is there about a river that makes it so special? Throughout the ages, since time began, rivers have inspired poets, songwriters, novelists, and philosophers to create great works. The world’s religious traditions often use rivers as symbols of cleansing and change. Folks get baptized in the river, they go down to the river to pray, and at the end of their lives they “cross the river” and may even be sent down the river on a funeral pyre. In ancient heroic tales, crossing a river was often a challenge the hero had to face. You could write reams about the way rivers have been used as metaphors that apply to life. Personally, I like to keep it simple.  I can identify with Winnie the Pooh who said, “Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.”  That hasn’t happened to me yet, but one can always hope. Perhaps it’s hope that keeps drawing us back to the river. (That, and fish, of course, which is also all about hope.)

Going down to the river has been one of our favourite things to do ever since we moved to our home here in the Comox Valley. We’d lived for 33 years in Edmonton, and although we were excited about the move to a smaller town on Vancouver Island, closer to our children and grandchildren, the first year here was a stretch for us emotionally. The major feeling was one of disconnection, separated from the familiar, but not yet attached to the new. Whenever I felt alone, I would walk by the river. The forest that flourished on its banks was a place of peace and beauty, reminding me that soon my roots, like the trees surrounding me, would be embedded in the soil of our new home.

I made this little 9x12" quilted piece at that time as a reflection of my feelings and hopes. In amongst the leaves you can see a house, some hearts, 2 people, and bird wings, all resting in the tree by the river, waiting. I’m happy to say it didn’t take long for us to feel at home, and we are truly happy here. Last year I created another river piece to reflect the joy I feel when I am down in that special place.

My “boys” – the big one and the little one – have returned, empty handed. “But we almost caught one, Oma,” says Solay, beaming. “He had the net ready to scoop it up, but at the last minute it got away,” says Al. (I think I’ve heard this story before!)

“Next time you’re here, let’s go down to the river again,” says Al. “Maybe we’ll get lucky next time.”  Yes, it’s all about hope.

PS.  To add to your river experience, check out this wonderful musical rendition of an old folk tune “Wayfaring Stranger”  created by my cousin’s son Regan Luth, and filmed by the Athabasca River in Jasper. Beautiful.

1 comment: