Moving to Freedom, .Org

Pouring a River

minnesota river

I’ve had this metaphor in mind about rivers that I thought I might keep to myself. At least for a while. Maybe a long time.


Perhaps I thought it grandiose, or silly, or that it would have some special power if I didn’t share it.

Well, phffft.

I love rivers.

Water flowing endlessly, gentle and unbroken, and then rushing over cascades and plunging down falls. The river is patient and powerful, cutting deep gorges through stone. Looking at the walls of rock over a river, you can feel time.

Earlier this year I imagined I had that epiphany I’m always looking for. I was sitting on a rock at the top of secluded cascades on the Manitou River, watching the water run by. I thought about its persistence. I thought…

My words must be like a river. I must write every day, pouring out new words to renew the stream. Many words will go by unseen and unremarked, but they are a necessary part of the river. All I can do is keep it flowing. In time, this river of words may find its true course and start carving out a channel, but only in time.

The spirit, I think, is a stream, a fountain, and must be continually poured out, for only if it is poured out will more and clearer streams come.

—Brenda Ueland

It may be that only a few people find and enjoy this river. I have to be okay with that. Maybe I should prefer it. Gooseberry Falls is crowded with tourists. I infinitely prefer the private time I spent at Manitou.

Still, I crave attention as much as anyone who sends their words downstream. I know I should write my own thing and “make my own kind of music,” and that’s what I try to do, to some personal satisfaction, but little acclaim. I consider what sort of posts might prompt more sharing, that people will link to, even while knowing it’s largely out of my control. I’d go a little crazy pursuing that. My efforts would reflect the desperation and hysteria. Day to day, you can’t get that viral big bang every time. Maybe not ever.

People will have to come for the steady flow of the river. There may be an occasional waterfall or flood that draws more attention, but those only come from the overall activity of the river. We’re drawn to the disruptions, the water pounding on the rocks, but we also like to hike along the calm stretches. We spend time at the waterfall and take our pictures, but then we keep going. The river is always changing.

I have to let go of the published posts. They’re on their way, flowing out to sea. If few people see them, what of it? The river will keep flowing, cutting its channel, with green things growing on the banks, and in time more people may find it. For those that have already lingered on the shore: Thank you.

I’ll learn to rejoice in the continuing flow. Discovering new turns in the river. Instead of worrying that I won’t have much to say, that I can’t keep it up year after year, I’ll remember those river gorges on the North Shore of Lake Superior. It is only with time and patience that I can hope to produce something lasting and memorable. I’d like my river to offer cascade after cascade, with regular hundred foot drops, but that’s not how rivers work. There will be long, calm stretches, as there should be.