I am living, albeit temporarily, by a river. Like every resident in this remote village, the Rio Tuito is a huge part of every day existence. The waterway provides a travel corridor, the source of drinking water, a place to bathe and wash clothes, recreate, and at night, the liquid music is a constant lullaby for baby and adult.
Every morning, I walk upriver along the tree-lined banks. My hike begins at approximately the same dawn time. Certain birds have become predictable in settling in at certain spots when I pass. Today the hummingbird was bold enough to whirl around me while the hunched-over heron kept watch over its favorite fishing hole.
All rivers have admirable characteristics. Water is a magnet for most species of terrestrial wildlife and as for fish, rivers are home, birthplace, and final resting place. All rivers meander, for this is the way of flowing water. Even drastically manipulated waters, channelized and pulverized into a straight line, will imperceptible and gracefully, like a polish of sharp-edged rock rolling in water becoming smooth, round stones, return to its natal path. And essentially all rivers attract bare feet. The easiest way to instill a sense of wonder is to take off your shoes and allow the liquid of life to play with your toes. Rivers freely provide bare skin with both a soothing massage and a tiny jolt of cool refreshing energy.
It has been a delightful routine to be “forced” to cross my nearby river numerous times each day. To walk to the tiny store will mean one immersion, heading to the beach requires at least two crossings, while traveling upriver into what can only be called the wild lands, results in the best treat, a minimum of half-dozen river rendezvous.
I especially enjoy crossing the river just before bedtime, finding myself typically stopping in the thalweg of the current —if only for a moment— to fully exalt in this simple pleasure, and to just give thanks to the day.
Rivers open and fill all our essential senses. Isn’t it amazing that the softest substance on earth, (water), when flowing over and into one of the hardest forms—rock, will not only slowly break the stone into sand, and in the process, instead of producing a harsh, clanging sound upon impact, comforts our ears like a pillow, with one of the planet’s most comforting melodies.
Today, I traveled farther up the river than ever before, beyond the homes and cultivated fields, to an unfamiliar oasis of trees, vines and water. A fantastic series of waterfalls could only be approached by scrambling on rock. I was excited to be here alone and I thought this spot of beauty to be unfrequented by others until I spied a small footprint in the sand. Unlike tracks on land, footprints in the water disappear as soon as you take the next step, but those marks on the river’s edge stay until the water rises. The print in front of me represented a sure sign that a boy or girl or generations of children, had also followed the river to this cascade, dangled their youthful feet in the life-giving waters, then dived in.
In her quiet eddies and pools, we recognize nature’s only true mirror. Plunging our feet into a cool bath disturbs the reflection for only a moment, then we can see ourselves as we truly are, without make up, combed hair or needing an excuse to assess our appearance. River reflections of people show the most elemental, revealing an elusive picture of the most complex.
Healthy rivers contain a mix of pools and riffles, pools for dangling legs in, and small cascades where you can feel the hefty pull of water tugging on your legs and perhaps like mermaids, pulling too on our entire being to become part of their phenomenal, mysterious watery world. ~