Georgia O’Keeffe, Blue, Black, and Grey, 1960
“I say: I am the river
and you are its blue, burning current.”
Sometimes I am bewildered
By all this foolish energy
Miles from people.
I envy those
Who live upriver
At the quiet source.
Here we are forever
The incoming roar
Of life and the tides
That carry death out
Dermot Healy, from “Prayer,” The Ballyconnell Colours (Gallery Press, 1992)
The silent, snaking Deschutes.
[…] You sit on this rock
on a day that will shrug like water over a parched hill.
Elk graze behind a barbed-wire stile.
Almonds linger in their velvet
under mackerel skies smoking up
a dismantled bed. Lichen steep their tang.
Arrowed herons. Ripple of otter.
River fuses with afternoon,
is lost, is found.
Kristen Berger, “You Are Here,” from Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built + Natural Environment (March 21, 2014)
“Who can long watch the ceaseless lapping of a river’s current without conceiving a desire to set himself adrift?”
" … I mostly fish rivers these days. In so doing, movement becomes stasis, flux is the constant, and everything flows around, through, and beyond me, escaping ungrasped, unnamed, and unscathed. The river’s clean escape does not prevent belief in its reality. On the contrary, there is nothing I love more than the feel of a wholeness sliding toward, around, and past me while I stand like an idiot savant in its midst, focusing on tiny, idiot-savantic bits of what is so beautiful to me, and so close, yet so wondrously ungraspable.”
David James Duncan, from My Story as Told by Water: Confessions, Druidic Rants, Reflections, Bird-Watchings, Fish-Stalkings, Visions, Songs and Prayers Reflecting Light, from Living Rivers, in the Age of the Industrial Dark (Sierra Club, 2001)
Savrasov Alexey Kondratievich, By the Evening, 1886
Played 69 times
"Watching the River Flow"
Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II
"Now when I had mastered the language of this water and had come to know every trifling feature that bordered the great river as familiarly as I knew the letters of the alphabet, I had made a valuable acquisition. But I had lost something, too. I had lost something which could never be restored to me while I lived. All the grace, the beauty, the poetry had gone out of the majestic river! I still keep in mind a certain wonderful sunset which I witnessed when steamboating was new to me. A broad expanse of the river was turned to blood; in the middle distance the red hue brightened into gold, through which a solitary log came floating, black and conspicuous; in one place a long, slanting mark lay sparkling upon the water; in another the surface was broken by boiling, tumbling rings, that were as many-tinted as an opal; where the ruddy flush was faintest, was a smooth spot that was covered with graceful circles and radiating lines, ever so delicately traced; the shore on our left was densely wooded, and the sombre shadow that fell from this forest was broken in one place by a long, ruffled trail that shone like silver; and high above the forest wall a clean-stemmed dead tree waved a single leafy bough that glowed like a flame in the unobstructed splendor that was flowing from the sun. There were graceful curves, reflected images, woody heights, soft distances; and over the whole scene, far and near, the dissolving lights drifted steadily, enriching it, every passing moment, with new marvels of coloring.
I stood like one bewitched. I drank it in, in a speechless rapture. The world was new to me, and I had never seen anything like this at home. But as I have said, a day came when I began to cease from noting the glories and the charms which the moon and the sun and the twilight wrought upon the river’s face; another day came when I ceased altogether to note them. Then, if that sunset scene had been repeated, I should have looked upon it without rapture, and should have commented upon it, inwardly, in this fashion: ‘This sun means that we are going to have wind tomorrow; that floating log means that the river is rising, small thanks to it; that slanting mark on the water refers to a bluff reef which is going to kill somebody’s steamboat one of these nights, if it keeps on stretching out like that; those tumbling boils show a dissolving bar and a changing channel there; the lines and circles in the slick water over yonder are a warning that that troublesome place is shoaling up dangerously; that silver streak in the shadow of the forest is the break from a new snag, and he has located himself in the very best place he could have found to fish for steamboats; that tall dead tree, with a single living branch, is not going to last long, and then how is a body ever going to get through this blind place at night without the friendly old landmark?’
No, the romance and the beauty were all gone from the river. All the value any feature of it had for me now was the amount of usefulness it could furnish toward compassing the safe piloting of a steamboat.”
Mark Twain, from “Two Ways of Seeing a River,” in Life on the Mississippi (James R. Osgood & Co., 1883)
"There are many things worth telling that are not quite narrative. And eternity itself possesses no beginning, middle or end. Fossils, arrowheads, castle ruins, empty crosses: from the Parthenon to the Bo Tree to a grown man’s or woman’s old stuffed bear, what moves us about many objects is not what remains but what has vanished. There comes a time, thanks to rivers, when a few beautiful old teeth are all that remain of the two-hundred-foot spires of life we call trees. There comes a river, whose current is time, that does a similar sculpting in the mind."
David James Duncan, from River Teeth (Doubleday, 1995)
Adolphe Appian, Fisherman in a Boat at the Riverside1887
Etching with monotype printing in black ink on ivory laid paper
315 x 463 mm (image); 346 x 485 mm (sheet)
"Fishing makes rivers my corrective lens; I see differently. Not only does the bird taking the mayfly signify a hatch, not only does the flash of color at the break of the riffle signify a fish feeding, but my powers uncoil inside me and I must determine which insect is hatching and what feeding pattern the trout has established. Then I must properly equip myself and properly approach the fish and properly present my imitation. I am engaged in a hunt that is more than a hunt, for the objects of the hunt are mostly to be found within myself, in the nature of my response and action. I am on the Parsifalian quest. I must be scientist, technician, athlete, perhaps even a sort of poet."
Nick Lyons, from “Bright Rivers,” in The Armchair Angler, ed. by Terry Brykczynski and David Reuther (Macmilian, 1986)
Claude Monet, The Towpath at Granval, 1883
I know four men
who paddled the length of the Mississippi
in a dugout they hacked
and burned out of a beech tree. When anyone
they would look at each other
and their eyes would soften with the memory
of mists and sandbars,
of the grave black brows of river barges.
Charlie Smith, from “Liar,” in Jump Soul: New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton & Co., 2014)
“To understand water is to understand the cosmos, the marvels of nature, and life itself.”