What Was Here Before The River?

Kids and dogs in the Bronson Brook yesterday, my brain buzzing with art and the perils of business acumen and also from giving driving directions to a beautiful woman.  Someone asked Andrew the same question I’ve been asking him more or less for the past year, why are so many of the faces gazing upwards?  Though for me it’s less the upturned face than the outstretched arms.  What does it mean to you, he responded, being more interested in his role as vessel than interpretative medium.  We project into the work of others what is in us that we cannot bear – in this instance, yearning for grace, longing for beauty – to hold on our own.

Or so I thought, kicking around in later afternoon water, which is always a solace no matter how crazy life or I feel.  Sophia wandered off by herself, searching for polished glass on the banks, Fionnghuala splashed in the shallows holding my hand.  Jeremiah stripped and crossed to the far bank, crawling back through blossoms of white water like Gollum sans his ragged loincloth.  Earlier – before visiting Andrew – I had stopped by the west branch of the Westfield River to pray and breathe, to be aware of the deep fatigue that begins somewhere inside my bones and radiates outward.

I often wallow too long in mysteries, in material I don’t understand, and come away as baffled as ever.  Reading lately about acupuncture, meridians, transformational grammar, Thomas Merton’s coded Buddhism.  Jeremiah asked about evolution last night while falling to sleep, Where did the first monkey come from?  And despite being tempted to say Adam or Let’s talk about it in the morning, I turned on the light, went scrounging through the basement for the old Time Life book “Early Man” that so entertained me as a child, and showed him the chart of evolution.  Chrisoula came in as well and we talked about the move from quadruped to biped, the growth of the brain, etc.  He asked something similar about the river earlier as well, What was here before the river?

The grackles move into flocks, the first of the leaves begin turning.  How fast time seems to be moving!  I worked a bit with this line or pair of images – “waning quarter moon, trout shadows” – but got nowhere.  Why is the river so cold, asked Sophia, and I said, Because it moves and so the sun cannot hold it long, which on the one hand was unsatisfactory to both of us and yet on the other hand – and there is always another hand – moved both of us to what felt like reverential silence as we stared into the water that sluiced around our knees.  Forgiveness matters, as does accepting the possibility that we really don’t know anything but can learn.

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