I grew up near a small river. Though small, the current was swift and its embankments were high and steep. There were far mightier rivers not far away, wider, a stronger current, and more history. But this was our river. It, too, had a history. Since the early 19th century, mills and factories had borrowed the power of its flow to give thrust to their machines. In return, the mills had heavily polluted the river’s waters.
Way upstream were mighty cataracts. Further downstream it was calm where it emptied into the lake. But through our neighborhood the river took an in-between way … too fast and caustic to swim in, but in many places clear enough to see the bottom.
I loved to study the river, follow its current, watch the swirling eddies. I knew the bank on our side of the river well. The secret trails, the good copse of bushes where a 10-year old could hide, smoke and not be caught or seen. I knew the river’s course, every turn, each narrowing and widening of the banks, driving the river’s flow. The river’s course and flow never changed. But every drop of water flowing by me was completely different than the moment before. Nothing, and everything changed. What was real? Was it real? Did the river change before my eyes, or was it a constant?
I don’t think I ever came to a satisfactory answer.
Should I see her as a river? Accept that as she flows, everything changes? Or should I believe that the course, level, and flow are constants?
I don’t think I’ll ever come to a satisfactory answer.