Friday, January 05, 2007

River, Life Changes

It struck me yesterday, as I flew back from long-time W.E.T. River Trips' guide, Saul's wedding in Hawaii, that I felt blessed to have long distance memories, especially those that I can readily retrieve, of people and places. I hadn't been to Hawaii in 22 years and the islands have changed. At first, I was disgusted and angry for what I perceived had been done to a formerly quiet and calm little tropical island; now, it was lined with resorts, condos, golf courses, malls, and traffic-brimming roads. I felt fortunate that I remembered the long distant past, and I looked beyond the clutter and glut. Still, the sun was strong, the water clear and warm, and the locals were kind and happy to share this place. During the wedding, we faced the ocean and that is all that we could see besides Saul and his bride, Irene. A long-term view that has changed very little in thousands of years; the ocean remains a true constant. The island will continue to change, and so will I.

What I now appreciate about being old is that my points of reference continue to expand… maybe that's why I will soon be addled with too much information to sort and ponder; however, for now… it is still a puzzle and a revelation. Everyday we are challenged to figure it out and to find ways to make it all work. Usually we do and sometimes we don't, but we respect the challenge and keep working on "This".

Changes still come slower on whitewater rivers. If someone gets too arrogant and builds too close to the water, a hundred-year flood comes along… sometimes that hundred-year flood comes 3 times in 12 years! There is a dramatic slowing down that rivers impose… they too will change… in due time. Sometimes that change happens over a thousand years and sometimes those changes can happen overnight. You can count on differences; however, sometimes you have to look closer at a shift in a gravel bar, a new tree on the shore, more turtles than last year... and sometimes it hits you in the face as a fallen tree, a new rock or a new rapid.

The three forks of the American River run through and straddle fast- paced and fast-growing communities yet, "river-time" is always different… predictable, surprising, and mythic. There is a Madrone tree that is growing out of a road cut above Salmon Falls that I have been watching for 30 seasons. I first noticed it because it was so small, and that the botanical wonder insisted on growing in such an
improbable spot 30 feet above a road on a cliff, and at a 45 degree angle. Consciously and unconsciously, I continue to watch the tree, and I review its progress in growth and I assess its health on every single shuttle for the South Fork American. I remain happy to report that the tree is now large, well-established, and seems to be doing just fine. I will continue to watch… I can't help it.
Post by Big Poppa, the Boss!

No comments: