by Chris Anderson
“We must begin thinking like a river if we are to leave a legacy of beauty and life for future generations.” –David Brower
There is a River in Colorado that tumbles down mountain canyons over rocky beds of granite. It then broadens as it travels across the high prairie… snaking its way across the heartland to the Mississippi and eventually the Gulf. It remains cold and strikingly clear as it travels through the high country. But, upon arriving in the flatlands, it warms and muddies, colored with silt dredged from the river bottom, ever expanding its width by eroding its banks; camouflage for fishes and other aquatic dwellers.
Rivers Call Us as a Sacred Resource
The current name for this river is the Arkansas, although the Pawnee once called it “Kicka.” The Mexicans named it Rio Napete, then later the French missionaries called it “Araknsa,” a derivative of a Dakota or Osage word. For thousands of years, it was a primary resource for a multitude of First Nation tribes who considered it to be sacred, both for transportation as well as the abundance of fish and agriculture that could be harvested along its banks.
I grew up next to this river (near a town called Pueblo) in the 1950s and early 60s. It was the best companion a young person could have… always welcoming, invigorating and inspirational; a classroom that revealed the magic of the natural world to my young, inquiring mind.
More than half of my summer days were spent walking down cottonwood-lined trails over lazy hills and then following train tracks in parallel with the river. After a four-mile hike, the tracks bridged the river, and that gave me access to the other side where bogs and marshes were to be found. Fecund with evolving life, this was an area of insects and grasses, cattails, milkweed, bulrush, broadleaf arrowhead and horsetail rushes (my personal favorite).
An Ecosystem Filled with Natural Resources
Tamarisk and other types of brush encircled these wetlands, affording a nesting area for sea gulls, white pelicans, songbirds and a variety of raptors and other fowl. All manner of mammals… coyotes, jackrabbits, possums, bobcats and deer frequented the area, leaving tracks and scat; an encyclopedia of wildlife for me to study and identify.
In observing the river, secrets about currents and whirlpools were revealed to me while I developed an immense respect for the power of flowing water (childhood’s first Taoist insight). During the winter, ice would occasionally form along the banks. I discovered crystalline geometry, another secret of how nature operates. In spring the thaw upstream would release a turbulent surge and carry debris to be washed up on the shoreline all the way to Kansas… sedge and seeds transplanted; diversity. During autumn, when the world became ablaze with color, I was taught that cycles and seasons were natural. Every passage of spring into summer and then to autumn found a conclusion in winter.
Rivers – All Part of the Cycle of Life
Youth and rivers are symbiotic… or at least they should be. Taking our kids into nature (as opposed to theme parks and movie theaters) brings them into the circle of life. It educates them by the process of observation and empathy. It allows them to become a part of the world that society buffers them from. For our progeny to thrive and the progress, they must be introduced early in life to the soil, the prairies and the woodlands, the streams and rivers and seas. A bond must be revealed to the young, one that is recognized and formed with our natural habitat to preserve and husband all life on Earth. If we fail to do this, we’re advancing into a self-created cataclysmic era.
Mother Earth is, in fact, a living organism that claims sentience is animate and self-aware. The brooks and streams and rivers are her veins and arteries… conducting water, the essential element giving and sustaining life. As the Earthkeepers that we are (or must grow to be), maintaining the health and vigor of waterways all around the planet must become our highest priority, our collective “first cause.”
Within this prevailing society, the evolution of technology has offered us the opportunity to dissect and analyze life on every imaginable level. Yet, it seems that we’ve lost our comprehension of the actual process of life. Modern man, in the pursuit of understanding cause and effect in the material world, has somehow shattered that the world. We are now forced to try to make sense of the hundreds of thousands of pieces it appears to have become: man has lost his identity within creation.
Reconciliation with Rivers and Our Role
At the same time, tribal people all across the globe have been drawn deeper toward reclaiming and revealing their creation stories, their myths, and legends as to how life came about and where the seat of the soul lies. Reconciliation is the key: relearning our tribal ways, our identities as members of clans and nations with roots five or ten or fifty thousand years in the past. Synthesizing our linear understanding of our organic and intuitive core essence.
Headlines about 2012, The Maya Calendar, and “the end-time” catch our imagination. But what if all the attention being paid to topics of this nature is, in reality, the calling of our collective subconscious to return to a lifestyle less complex and divisive. Can we envision and establish a culture more invested in stewardship, rooted in local gardening and food resourcing and committed to creating communities that are environmentally conscious, easily sustainable and renewable into the distant future?
Igwein! (Thank you for hearing me)
About the Author
Chris Anderson is a professor of English at Oregon State University, a retreat leader, author, blogger, and a Catholic deacon. An award-winning writer and teacher, he explores the struggle, joy, and doubt of contemporary spirituality through personal story & literary collage. He is the author of 14 books, including poetry and nonfiction. Chris was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. www.deaconchrisanderson.com
This post first appeared on OMTimes Magazine - Co-Creating A More Conscious Li, please read the originial post: here