This week I was asked to participate in a panel discussing rivers, and what they mean to people. I grew up near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. If you've read "Huck Finn," you have read about an Illinois spot I return to each time I go to Kentucky.
Not sure what I will say about rivers, but I'm certain I'll have no trouble with my couple of minutes. I remembered this piece I published on the blog earlier, and I think there are things here I might draw on. It's hard to believe this was written more than ten years ago.
In 2001, I gave pieces of driftwood I gathered at the river to some friends with the following piece:
I am a person of rivers.
For those of us born to rivers, they are life itself. We speak of them reverently. We fear them. We cherish them. We are drawn to them by a force we cannot comprehend but have no choice but to obey. They flow through our souls. They define us.
We go to the river for strength, for guidance, for solace. We cannot possibly find our way in the world without returning to the river periodically. It beckons to us. We cannot deny its call. We learn at a young age that there's no point in even trying. Not that we want to anyway. The river knows when we are away from it too long. It summons us home.
We gather at the riverside for family celebrations, baptisms, and catharsis. We have rituals, public and private, that are carried out only on those banks.
The confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers is a place I return to when I've lost my way in the world. I have said prayers of thanksgiving and prayers of entreatment from the same spot. I have sought direction and consolation. I will do both again as long as I walk upon this Earth.
I gathered this driftwood on an April Day of 2001 with the idea of sharing it with a few special friends at Christmastime. I had no idea then how profoundly changed I would be by the end of this year. My life will never be the same as it was that day.
I can't give you the river. I can't even explain its attraction for those of us born to it. But I want to share with you a small token of it. May this driftwood encourage you to visit what restores you.
I hope the holidays are a time of joy for you and yours this Christmas.
Other river thoughts: http://www.blog.patsyterrell.com/2011/12/down-by-riverside.html
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