As Norman brings his year of daily reflections on the Ottauquechee River to a close, he ponders what it has meant to repeatedly ask the river, “What is it like for you?”
I began this river journal on September 27, 2014, with the intention of carrying it through for one year. With that plan in mind, I have three weeks and a day left before I finish.
My question of the Ottauquechee was and is, “What is it like for you?” This must be an open-ended question. The very nature of a river denies the idea of closure. Of course, the river had a beginning, and will have an end, a lifetime beyond our comprehension. Does the river have an experience? For thousands of years, human beings took it for granted that rivers had spirits, conscious of what it did, even intending what occurred within and just beyond its banks. We call this superstition.
In this age of human-caused damage to the Earth, the exercise of assigning a spirit to natural realities like rivers may have a surprising value. Rivers have many characteristics we assign to sentient beings: movement, complex chemistry, acute responsiveness to its surroundings, voices, to name a few.
Whether conscious or not, rivers have a being: moving, speaking, nurturing, sometimes destroying.
Granting in the imagination a conscious being to the river, and asking the question – What is it like for you? – may allow us to know the river in ways we could not otherwise. For sure, if we persist, we will meet the river in unexpected ways.
In the next weeks, as I bring this journal to a close, I will try to share the ways I have met the Ottauquechee, and admit the mysteries that remain.
Today, artists met the river from their perspectives, along the bank, near the bend before the now-dwindling rapids.