A river runs through it

September 28th, 2010

I wish I could explain, if only to myself, why these places have such a hold on my heart. It is more than that my father’s spirit continues to visit these rivers, though there is surely that. Summer after summer I watched my father fish these waters; summer after summer these rivers flowed their way into my father’s story and so, into mine. To this day I cannot look at a trout stream without assessing it with an angler’s eye it for the perfect spot to cast a line. In this, as in so much, I am my father’s daughter.

But these waters are more than a repository for my father’s memory; they have been in my life, for as long as I can remember, riffling in the sunshine with a life of their own, one that has nothing to do with my father. They speak to my heart. I do not know why. I have never known, with a logical kind of knowing, why. There is my father, of course. But I believe now that that came later. I think, having had two decades now to think about it, that it was after the rivers had already laid their claim that I grafted on to the pull I cannot explain the pull that I could. I think my love of these rivers is so inexplicable even to myself that I decided that I love them because they remind me so uniquely, so precisely, of my father. Twenty years on I can see my father in his waders and fishing vest, I can hear his voice asking at Bud Lilly’s what flies are fishing well. Some of my most vivid images of my father are from here, from this place of rivers lined with aspen and cottonwoods that blaze yellow under an autumn sky. My memory of my father is forever tied up with these rivers.  

And yet.

And yet I know the rivers have their own voice. I know that even without the image of my father forever in the corner of my eye, casting from the far bank of memory, these rivers, these glorious golden rivers in the last dying hours of summer, speak to me with their own voice, and it is with that voice that they call me home.