The pupil says to the master, ”Now it will turn warm, the birds are coming back.”
The master answers:”The birds have been here from the beginning.”
The book’s main plot dealing with one big question. When will the friggen river burst its banks? The book ending with the river’s final onslaught. Where she washes these two overly optimistic protagonists, down to the wide open sea? Where the squid live and love and the trailer people row like hell? See: Oceantrip.com.
You see, the Middle River holds our mortgage and some day she might arrive at our door, dripping wet and with a plan. She’ll enter our place, without a please or a thank-you. Turn our legal mortgage documents into lumps of soggy pulp, drywall and chipboard. Row, row, row your trailer. In 4/4 time.
I think we both have gamblers’ blood in us. “You’ve got to know when to hold them and you’ve got to know when to show them”... or something like that. Accurate or not, we’re playing poker with the river. And I don’t even know how to play poker. Not even strip poker, having had to resort to strip euchre and strip crazy eights at certain times in my life.
But why do people gamble? One reason is they like the thrill. And it’s hardly ever boring around here. And both of us hate boredom.
An old fella down the road told us that the tool shed used to be in the front part of our property. Ha! Our property. Did I just make a funny?
Anyway, in the great rainstorm of 2010, the rains did fall and the waters did flow and the road became impassible and our lot became a river. The said tool shed floated free of its place, and migrated to the other end of the property.
Sue and I took up the river’s poker challenge, looked at our cards and said to the river, “We’ll raise you one.”
So we had a new shed built in the same place the old tool shed had been located. We also had skirting put around the trailer. So there! But we were careful. We told them to stake the shed down.
We were also excited to find a beautiful skeleton of a tree. Its bark fully stripped away. It looked like it could make a shiny sculpture for our property, like a totem pole.
So we said to our river. “We’ll up the ante and enjoy the fact that you put this beautiful tree on our property to use as a sculpture of some sort. Thank you.”
I went out with my chain saw and began to cut the trees up. Until the snows came and made it too difficult.
“Thank you, river. You have brought us a nice chopping block. Actually more than one, and you have provided us with the opportunity to get some mighty fine firewood.”
“Oh yeah,” said the river. So she sent another flood last January. Her waters filled our driveway and flowed up to our trailer. We decided we should vacate because there was so much snow to melt and it was a-melting and it was a-raining. We put some of our belongings on our toboggan and pulled it over the new river and drove to Baddeck where we stayed in a beautiful hotel overnight and then at a friend’s for a few days. Where we had a wonderful holiday.
“Oh yeah,” said the river.
And she tossed out a spring flood, which did pile up more trees. So now the beavers have found themselves a nice place to live. And on a day when the river was back to being as nice as a little kitty cat, we took a gander at the pile of tree trunks and branches in the river. We studied the physics of the pile of wood and decided that for me to chainsaw it up was like my playing a dangerous game of pick- up sticks. And anyway, we thought that maybe the wall of trees might divert the river’s course and make her less of a threat. Said to hell with the pile of trees. Laughed at the pile of trees and branches. Then drove to the Co-op, located in magnificent Margaree Forks, where we bought a bottle of wine and some other necessities.
“Up yours, river.” Of course we didn’t put up the gazebo to antagonize the river, but to stop the mosquitoes and black flies from bothering us.
Because there’s nothing a black fly likes better than running water. And this water never stops running. It’s in superb shape.
Then one sunny day I was sitting in the little gazebo closet. Reading a book and drinking a diet drink. The gazebo all zippered up.
So we ordered in our fix-it guy and we purposely installed, “in your face, river”, a brand new expensive front door and screen door.
And the river, within hours, laid a host of mosquitoes down on our card table and just for a laugh sent us, a few days later, Hurricane Arthur. The winds did blow and the rains did pour down but nothing much really happened here.
Ha! We raise you two. We’re talking of a pitched roof on our little mobile home. And a new stove. How much would that raise the ante?
It’s a yin-yang thing. Not only is the river a threat, she also offers us solace and is as powerful as any therapist in any office in any city, town or village. A therapist who offers us therapy twenty-four seven. Her office just outside our window.
“Oh Dr. River, I just can’t get myself up in the morning. I drag myself to my coffee cup. I drag myself to my job. Everything is so organized. I need a challenge.”
“I’ll give you a zest for life. I’ll put some adrenalin into your veins.”
She slaps down a flood.
But she teaches us more than that. As we watch the river flow by we realize the water comes from somewhere and the water goes somewhere. In a continuous cycle of rain and evaporation. Patiently flowing by with a no-sweat attitude.
“What! Would you wish that there be no dried trees in the woods and no dead branches on a tree growing old?”
A seventy-year-old Huron
Like everything in life, we all pass through a complete life cycle. We are born. We die and our bodies become something else. Maybe, when you slap that mosquito, you’ve just sent Julius Caesar back into the after-life. Et tu Brutus?
“Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?”
“When the finite enters in the Infinite, it becomes the Infinite, all at once. When a tiny drop enters into the ocean, we cannot trace the drop. It becomes the mighty ocean.”
The river has other lessons. Its eternal flowing into the ocean teaches us not to believe in the nonsensical logic that our society swallows hook, line and news clip. That not accepting the worldly wisdom would reduce the chaos in our cities, temper our crazed belief in unlimited growth, and slow down our lemming-like intrinsic disrespect for our environment. Teach us that we are not in control. Never were and never will be. That’s just one of our myths that will be told by a future ancient.
And our river is music. The music that comes from the stars. The music that is us. Our river dances and sings and growls and calls our bluff. Our river plays a mean game of poker.
“See how I’m sitting
Like a punt pulled up on land.
Here I am happy.”