I am still working on the book “Goodbye to a River”. After a long day of classes and a trip to a poetry reading, followed by a much needed visit to a dear friend that I’ve not seen in weeks, I came home to light some candles, make some coffee, and read.
One of the topics we were told to write about were “of the two women fishing opposite the camp”. I’ve got the impression that the author did not feel as though they belonged. Well, I’ve not reached this part of the book yet. No doubt I shall do so tonight. Fortunately, I have caught up with where I should have been twenty-four hours ago. The author has just ran a chute of rapids to become embarrassed that he was heard yelling by a man and a woman who were fishing. He writes that their being there irritates him, as they are of him spoiling their silence. This is where I put the book down, gathered various furred animals together to wish goodnight, and “hit the hay”.
What is the amazing “stillness” often found in the outdoors? The author says at several periods of the aloneness and quiet, that the river and simply being there was enough. Not easy conditions to achieve. How many times have I left the marked trail to brave snake and chigger alike in order to find that magickal area of hardwoods without the human footprint beneath their arms! Most of my early walks were closer to prior military marches, full of steam and purpose overrunning everything, than they were to a leisurely walk of a person in love with Nature. One of my desires was to make the great trip down the Appalachian Trail. The ends were defining marks of a goal. Yet now I wish to do so not for the explorative nature of a hiker, but the nature of such a trip now would be similar to walking in the park with a friend. The friend in this case would be all around, and whereas before I would have striven to reach to the end of the trail, imagine my disappointment when at last I finally reached the end of my journey?
So far the author has been somewhat unhappy with every other human contact that he has met along the river. From the aircraft of irresponsible pilots to the cadaver in overalls fishing the sand bank, all are intrusions upon his solitude in the river. This makes sense to me. I go walking through the Arboretum in Houston many times and I let my mind and footsteps wander (wonder) in whatever direction they may. To follow a sound and tree-hopping of what is believed to be a Western Kingbird (rare in this area), becoming almost childlike in the approach of the bird, with your social statures and defenses lowered, your cares and worries on hold, to round a bend in a trail (eyes raised on the treetops for signs of the bird), to nearly bump into another person out for a walk… this is like cold water being poured upon someone in a dream. Instantly you realize that your defenses are down, you are not projecting that finance broker, or that manager, or even the ever-cool bartender, but instead you were laughing like a child at a new toy.
What if we were all able to drop the social mask that were of no real use to us? An example is the idea of legitimate and referent power held in a theory of power used in I/O Psychology (psychology of the workplace). This was seen in one of my restaurant’s meetings between a new manager and the staff. One worker was treated somewhat rudely because the manager did not see proper respect given to him. What was happening was that the worker was following a higher idea of guest service, whereas the manager was looking in terms of respect. What if we were all able to float down a river, alone, and to rediscover that elusive “thing” which connected us to the land. It is not the misunderstood pagan idea of worshipping a tree, but an appreciation for the tree. And here we come to “why” should we appreciate a simple tree, or a river, or a park, or a prairie? Is it as the author is setting people up to believe (which I think he has something up his sleeve) in the historical significance? While historical significance might play an important role in drawing more people to realize the river (or a spot of land) as the living record of past events, it is merely a step into the direction. Much like one way to work toward vegetarianism is not to tout the cruelty of our slaughterhouses, or the devastating environmental impact of livestock, but instead to make it a personal issue… increased stroke, heart attack, and cancer (to name a few). Once the person has accepted these arguments, others become much more easily assimilated. I am going out on a limb here, but this would be my guess as to the purpose of the author. A Comanche campsite is in itself not significant. Yet it is archaic and is of a past that is no longer. We’ve lost it and we know it. To associate such with the river places some of the “feeling” or “value” of the past upon the river itself. Yet it is still a bit funny when the author makes claims of the river being unimportant to the great horsemen of the Comanche for traveling. The use of Comanche stories would better suit the preservation of the plains than that of a river.
Of course I cannot help but think now in terms of a Jungian viewpoint, to be more exact, that of Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. An Archetype is a great primordial symbol that is beyond consciousness in the Collective Unconscious. The Archetype manifests itself to us through symbols. These symbols vary from culture to culture, place and time. What is the symbology used in this book thus far? The river to be sure, but also the weather is symbolic. The author seems to make connections to the weather and his outlook. While I understand from both experimental and clinical studies of the impact of weather upon the mind and mood, I also understand the impact of the mind to project into the environment as well. To many people, a gray day is gloomy and sorrowful. To me, if I have the day off, I welcome the day with as much exuberance as I would a sunny day. I grab a favorite book of meditations or philosophical debates, poetry, or letter writing gear, go to a favorite local coffee shop to purchase a cup of coffee and I sit in the window basking in the intense reflective nature of the moment and to allow my Self to venture out into the moving clouds. The author makes some of the same points with the rain and his age. He links age and maturity quite often and I sense that he is making a distinction between a youthful love “of” life and an older love “for” life. His doubts about the trip started before it began and as he is nearing the bridge now in the book, he is debating the choice to pull out. That is when the weather clears for him and he see the river in a great youthful manner through eyes which are now older. Perhaps this was his purpose all along, to give his old eyes a look at his earlier life to see if there was anything he might have missed.
It is now nearing noon and I have yet to make my daily ritual of going to the gym. Afterwards I will carry with me some books by Jung, more textbooks, and will attempt to catch up on my studies and to even surpass what is required. Homework is just like a river’s rapids… you must stay ahead of it to stay in control of your boat.