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August 30, 2014
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River trips: a poem

Lynn Guiser

Greetings—sitting on your bank, listening to the music of a forest that is waking up from a long winter’s nap.

Your borders, thick with green, songs of spring, and hungry whitetails filling their bellies.

Sentimental memories of assorted bungalows and tiny triangle-shaped houses peeking through the fields and woods.

Trips downstream never get tiring.

I sometimes imagine your empty river bed—a beautiful stone basin, with gradual deeper dips, and a wonderful, uneven and changing surface. Tranquil eddies, full of life and birth, gently wrap around our bodies when we take a dip. In your arms, we feel safe and nurtured, taken care of—the way our mothers once did when we were in the womb.

At your water’s edge, and in shallow paths, lie solitary gigantic rocks, and clusters of boulders—some of them landmarks, and some possibly have spiritual meaning in the Native American culture. They welcome us, standing still—like sacred monuments, left from the last glacier.

We can’t help but feel inspired by your scenery as we float. Like a loving friend, you give us all the time we need. Your soothing voice helps us to forgive ourselves of all the mistakes we made last week, last year, and since we were born. The wounds in our hearts heal a little bit more each time—because we still miss all the ones who said goodbye before we were ready.

It feels wonderful when you take special care and guide us to extraordinary places. Super-sized bald eagle nests make us smile and suddenly we feel privileged. Their white heads and tails blend with cotton ball clouds—and we always stare—satisfied, when one shows up. It is amazing to catch sight of this bird soaring to heights that disappear into your blue sky... They seem to be on their way to heaven. What a marvelous gift! Because we come away from the sight feeling connected with something special—something big, perhaps—connected with the spirit and wise one within ourselves.

Our favorite areas to rest on a hot day have a gentle slope, just the right amount of sunshine and a slight current. We take a ritual swim, and we feel blessed—baptized—and loved, never wanting to leave, even though there are always more of these spectacular places to stop.

You have always been important to earth, man, and the natural world. The old river towns speak highly about your extensive history—of rich farmland and famous battles won and lost on your borders, and the coal miners who traveled through on barges in canals.

Each river town is more charming than the last, but it is you that makes the towns what they are.

A trip downstream is priceless, but costs little or nothing.

It is a glimpse of everything that is all right in the world. It keeps us going, keeps us giving, and keeps us believing in something greater than ourselves.

[Poet Lynn Guiser lives with her family in Damascus, PA.]