I posted a piece about the river a few weeks. I needed to revise it for my class. To fracture it and allow myself to move beyond the river a little bit. I had to revise it a couple times before I felt like I got it right. The original can be found here.
In Southeastern Washington sits the tiny town of Burbank. There’s not much to look at: two gas stations and a tavern. A place so small it’s not even considered a town. Right on the outskirts of the Tri-Cities, it is nestled in the crevice created where the Snake empties into the Columbia. I’ve been enamored by this ever since my eighth grade Social Studies teacher made the point of discussing it. Though I cannot remember much else from this lesson, I can remember the importance he placed on it. The Columbia is a vast river and a pivotal piece in the history of the Northwest. This “River of the West” stretches across seven states and Canada. Creating a gateway for trading and watering agriculture. The snake is 1078 miles long. Though shorter, the fact that we are at its end is astonishing. I can see this spot perfectly when I’m home, driving over the bridge into town. Sometimes I wonder how many people travel across the water everyday without knowing.
I remember how much I loved looking out the front window of my house at the Columbia. Nothing blocked our view, save for a few trees near the waters’ edge that were taller than others. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering why it is I’m drawn to the water. Sometimes I think it’s the calmness. For the most part I am a relaxed person, but every once in a while it’s nice to have a reminder, a breath of fresh air. On some occasions I think it is simply my love for nature. The river is just another extension of that. And other times I think it’s the relationship that is created by my last name. Waters. That word has so many meanings. It is not only a substance created by two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. It is not only an element that covers a majority of the earth, falls from the sky, or something that keeps us alive. It is also the name of a wonderful family. A family that is no doubt weird but also a family that is awesome. Big hearts that allow themselves to be trampled from time to time. The ability to get along with just about anyone. The passion to help others, whether through our career choices or just because. That’s who we are.
It’s the time with my grandparents I miss the most. I was the youngest out of all the grandkids (16 including myself), so it is safe to assume I was a little spoiled. My childhood was spent watching John Wayne movies with grandpa during lunch after pre-school and helping my grandma do the dishes. I loved it. Lawrence Welk has a special meaning to everyone in my family has we can all (and I do mean all) start a chorus of the theme song at given moment. Now that they’re both gone I have to hold on to these memories and try to keep them from blurring. Whether it was the above memories, fishing and camping, or any other moment from my childhood, they were all important times in my life. This upcoming Christmas will be the first without my grandma, and I can’t help but think of how different it will be no matter how hard we try to keep it the same. She was part of what kept our family knit together, the centerpiece so to speak. Just as people congregate for a Sunday morning service or in the kitchen when a big feast is cooking. Part of the reason I am who I am is because of my grandma and grandpa. Because of their blood flowing like a river through my veins and passing through my heart.
In many ways aren’t we just like rivers? Throughout our lives we flow, we learn, we give ourselves to others. We also intertwine. New rivers and tributaries spring from us through our relationships and networks. We form lakes. And at some point, we join forces. We flow into another river, adding our water to it. Carrying on it that give and take manor until we eventually flow into the ocean. Reminding us that when we combine forces we become a part of something bigger. Something better. We can also learn from rivers. We can learn how important working together can be, how important keeping calm can be. Rivers are also both transparent and reflective. Many allow you to see several feet into their depths, others are muddled, and sometimes the movement of the water can clear up what is below. I have often felt this way. Confused, thinking too hard about a decision I need to make or a friendship, when suddenly something clicks and my worries have disappeared. The fact that water can be reflective is one of my favorite things about it. A quick glance at the surface will show not only the nature around it reflected upon its surface, but the sky. When the sun sets and all the colors of the sky create a beautiful image atop the water, I am reminded that together we can create something worth remembering.
The sun set calms me. I am enamored by it. I can think of several in particular that I can still picture vividly in my head. The fading light of the sky finding a place on the Columbia, the only thing visible in the mostly dark world around me aside from the lights on all around town and mingled in with the island sitting on the river. It’s a small island, but it holds a couple restaurants and a hotel. This made the reflective image even more interesting than normal as a portion of it was cut out by the island. But it was absolutely beautiful. However, these images never last, and in the blink of an eye, the sun can disappear completely behind a hill in the distance. We will never get these moments back, and that is so true about any moment in our life. After it ends, it’s gone forever. We can’t have a redo, we can’t change it, or alter the outcome. That’s it. But we can change future moments. When we invert our perceptions, we can notice new things.
I remember the first time I saw my house from the water. It was as if I was the river looking at everything that surrounds it. Over the tops of the trees I could see my house, the water tower, and some of the houses around ours. I could even see the willow tree in our front yard and the walnut tree in the dog run. But everything looked miniscule. Tiny compared to how it usually appeared and much smaller than the water around me. I could not see the details of our house, or tell if anyone was home. That’s when I realized how truly small we are. Rivers are by no means the largest bodies of water. Their width and depth can vary; their length can vary greatly. However, the world around them is large. And people flock to rivers. Using them for their own good. Some might say that rivers even bring people together. Rivers are strong, but they are not strong enough to overcome the life we have given them on their own. They need to be taken care of. Just like we do. We can think that we don’t need help and that we can do everything by ourselves. And while that may be true some of the time, it is not true all the time. I’ve reluctantly asked for help and bettered myself because of it. I now let that happen more frequently.
I hope that the river continues to be an important part of who I am. If I ever lose sight of their importance, of the importance of water, I fear I may lose sight of a part of who I am. I have lost sight of that before, and though it’s not that I didn’t like the person I had become, I felt like I wasn’t being true to myself. We cannot change for other people; they need to accept us for who we are, and if they don’t, we probably don’t need them. The river (any river really) is a constant reminder of who I am. I feel that if I can keep that in mind, all will be okay. We all need something like that in our lives, and I hope that everyone can find that thing in their life, and keep it close.