Scott Johnson's back with us this week. Just as Duane and I make ourselves at home at the Black Dog Coffee House, I like that Scott fits right in here at the Window, too. I love--and maybe envy a little--his adventures and today, I particularly love his and John Prine's insights. - Liz
I have seen many rivers in my life. I once swam all the way across the Ohio just to say I had done it. I have fallen into mountain streams as cold as ice water and have waded in plenty of muddy creeks looking for crawdads and snakes and little fish and even bones of bison eroding from the bank. I love the feeling of flowing water. I have read the stories of Twain’s adventures on the Mississippi and followed Lewis and Clark up the Missouri. I have fished the Yellowstone and the Big Horn, and made camp along the banks of the Rio Grande. I have seen the power of flood waters and the despair of rivers that once flowed but are now dry. I have heard the stories of how rivers that were so polluted would catch on fire and in the high mountains I have quenched my thirst from still pools. I have canoed, rowed, motored, kayaked and tubed down many. Most of us have stories born from rivers and creeks and other bodies of water. Water is universal, and whether it is fresh or salty, humans have always been drawn to it.
|The Eel River in Logansport, IN|
We have two rivers flowing through our town. Most of the time we cross them without a thought but this morning, I slowed and nearly stopped crossing the Eel and just looked for a moment. I rolled down the window and the fresh cold air blew into my face. The sun, in my eyes, glittered and played over the uneven surface of the water. Even with all my travels I had to wonder if I had ever seen a prettier scene. Few places could possibly look this good. I know it is not always this pretty…I make it a point to really look at every river I cross. So I have seen it roiling and muddy and treacherous. But today it was peaceful and pretty. I wondered how it must have looked centuries ago before the fields were bare dirt and before we had drained the lowlands that protected the flowing waters. It must have been just about this pretty nearly every day in the long past.
John Prine once wrote, “Old trees just grow stronger and old rivers grow wilder every day.” I have no explanation but these words have always meant something to me. I have even considered having them permanently added to my skin but I always chicken out. These words ring true, but the damn realist in me knows that they are not accurate. Yes, old trees grow big and they are strong but they are the ones that break under heavy forces because they are no longer flexible. Rivers carry more water as they get older but only up to a point. Then the land flattens out and the river starts to meander and roam along a flood plain creating a soft peaceful flow.
So how do we define, strength and wildness? Is your current condition that which makes you strong? Is it your current life that defines your wildness? Or is it your past? Is it what you have been through? Is it the accumulation of your experiences that add one upon another that defines us. Perhaps I am stronger, not physically, but stronger nonetheless for the adventures, the joys and the sorrows that I have experienced. Perhaps I am wilder today than yesterday because I have added experience.
Yes, this is what John must have been writing about. It is the strength and the wildness that comes with age and experience. It is the ability to know that life goes on, for an uncertain amount of time that makes us strong and wild. It is this knowledge that ultimately makes us fearless. If we can keep growing yet all the while bending in the wind and meandering on our way…if we keep adding to our wildness through experience each day, life will be well spent. There is really nothing to lose. So do it.