I Dream of Rivers


At the very least there are those moments in the morning I make it to the water and watch the sun surface out on the horizon. It is a moment of extraordinary optimism, when the terrors of just a few hours earlier slip away, and I have no worries about what’s next, no concern of financial obligations and diligence to my work. The hauntingly disturbing barrage of news–issues with the government and election, the temperatures in Antarctica, the fires, the floods, the shootings, the viruses–can be shut away, even if briefly. The point is, out there, for those moments, I control the intake; I regulate the volume.

But it doesn’t last long.

The sunrise is no hypocrite, I can promise you that. It may deceive us at times, but it is there without fail, even if behind clouds. This is obvious and I might be in danger of dipping into something conspicuously trite if it wasn’t for a new thought: it is only when I am alone in nature that I can truly, and without subjectivity, face myself. In town, in the city, I am a myriad personas: The professor who is not nearly smart enough for that life. The writer who doesn’t ever have the confidence things are going well no matter the success. The father who will always wonder a million thoughts about parenthood, as all parents do. The contradictions flow like the tide, sometimes filling me with such depression, other times leaving me saturated with hope. Life isn’t always extremes, of course, but it can feel that way at three am, and I can only find balance at dawn, when I make it to the water and watch the sun surface out on the horizon and stand for a moment bathed in that sense of hope.

This morning, the glass-like bay worked as a mirror held by a child for me to face myself and challenge my seemingly quixotic existence. And I saw such sad hypocrisy:

–I want to be healthier and have been trained in proper nutrition, but I don’t eat well

–I want to be in better shape and know what needs to be done and how to do it, but I don’t do it

–I have three writing projects that need to be completed by yesterday and I know where I want the narratives to go, but I don’t work on them because I’m terrified they’ll resist

Am I the only one like this? Probably not, but it feels that way at 3 am.

But it doesn’t feel that way at dawn. So I keep going back every morning for my booster shot. This morning, the clouds and sun took turns until the sun won out, and the rays on the bay took my depression from me and cleansed it, handed it back to me and said, “Keep coming back and I’ll clean it off again.”

But this isn’t about personification or faith or depression. It’s about nature at dawn, it’s absolute adherence to something naked and pure, unblemished. Why wouldn’t everyone want to be out there instead of listening to the same filth flowing from the news? You know, I think that depresses me even more; the conspired desire to feed that unhealthy flow.

While the calm, cool face of the river might have at one time asked Langston Hughes for a kiss in his persona’s “Suicide Note,” it does the opposite for me; it says, “You are the one who stood on edge of the Great South Bay and dreamed of Russia. You are the one who swam the Allegheny River and dreamed of Africa. You are the one who stood on the Rappahannock and dreamed of Spain.” And here I stand on the Chesapeake at dawn, as the thin slice of today reveals itself between the pages of last night and this morning, and I can tune out all which troubles me and the world and focus on something larger, something with more promise. And my soul feels settled again, and I know it has grown deep like the rivers.

Somehow I have found something essential in an otherwise troubled and challenging time: peace. And all I really need is to look for it. Every. Single. Day.


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