I grew up in the Midwest, far from oceans but near to rivers and lakes, and it was those bodies of water, the rippling, moving rivers and the clear, beckoning lakes, that speak still so deeply to me. The first river I remember is the Rouge River in Dearborn, Michigan, polluted by the Rouge River plant which spilled untold chemicals into its water. We were overwhelmed by the power of the industry there, its fire and sound, by also overwhelmed by its chemical smells and smoke. Then came the Cedar River in Iowa and the Mississippi River running the length of the region, one local and intimate, one defining and huge. I loved them both.
Later on in New England I came to know the Connecticut River Valley and it’s namesake river. That water carried history in it as well as the beauty of its surrounding hills, sometimes scarlet in the fall, humid and utterly green in summer.
Now I live in the Pacific Northwest and my neighborhood river is the Columbia, not actually an intimate river but one I see almost daily. And when I drive out to central and eastern Oregon I delight in the contrast of deep water with desert plateau.
Last summer on a road trip to my daughter’s wedding in Colorado we drove along the Snake River, unable to escape its charms, its clarion call. At the wedding we walked along the Roaring Fork River, tributary to the Colorado, that immense giant of all Western mountains waters.
And last but not least, in another section of Colorado we camped near the headwaters of the Rio Grande, stars streaming their light down at night, and then followed it into the high elevations of New Mexico where it runs between conifers and cacti, down into the far southern sands.
Water is our very life, right within our bodies. Rivers embody that in the outer world. How can we not love them?