By Tom Welch
I often wonder what life would be like living on the riverbank.
Sometimes I see people doing chores there and taking baths. They seem so permanent, so rooted. I wonder what excitement their lives provide them. From what I can observe, not much. Yet last night I heard a young girl, I think, singing in the darkness.
I wonder if everyone sings, and whether all sing alone or sometimes together.
My life here has its interesting side, too. Mostly it’s a struggle against the flow of the river and obstacles, seen and sometimes unseen. Only the foolish float without a paddle in the water, and then not for long. With the paddle I sense everything in the river; rocks and snags, turtles and larger fish even. I call the smaller fish to dinner. I sleep in calm water next to the bank—one side or the other, it doesn’t matter.
Few people on the bank even notice me gliding by like a ghost; young children do. They point and laugh and go back to their games.
You may wonder what my goals are in life. First must always be to stay upright. It is very dangerous to capsize and always uncomfortable. If one cannot catch his canoe or right and re-board it, one becomes a riverbank person until a new canoe can be built.
This happened to me once. Halfway through the rebuild a young woman approached. We had no common language except signs and later love. When I finished, I asked her to come with me to be my wife, lover and the mother of my children, but she was hesitant.
My goals in life are varied: to keep my stomach full, to occupy my mind; to learn all there is to know about the river; to find out whether it ever comes to an end and what is there. Perhaps there are even many rivers. Though our philosophy teaches otherwise, I free my mind to wonder if it may be so, and what kind of people and creatures might be found there. Sometimes I think the same as here.
Sometimes I imagine fantastical.
My brothers and sister float down this river too, some ahead and some behind. Occasionally we call out to one another from currents of different speeds. I saw my mother a season ago without my father aboard. I wonder what has happened. Perhaps I will find out some night at rest along the shore, though larger spaces for mooring are rare.
The birds are colorful today. I haven’t seen this kind before. I think I will stop early tonight to explore.
Tom Welch has an M.A. in Education from Stanford University and is a former high school math teacher, US Army Specialist 5, executive at General Motors, and has 10 years experience leading groups of parents and children in a community education program that explores the effects of addiction on families. He has also worked for several years with adjudicated teenagers using these same program materials. He has published a book available on Amazon entitled “Raising Healthy Children” which is available as an e-book and soft cover. His blog contains this story and many others. His wife Gitta’s Husky, Spirit, is 14 years old and loves cold weather, the colder the better. It is Tom’s assignment to walk the dog every morning without complaint. Tom loves to write as ideas come to him. This story came to him as a title, and he wrote it straight out, from top to bottom with only minor wording revisions. You can look for his articles in Elephant Journal as well, but be patient—his first indication of interest from them came only this week.
Photo: Cristian Iohan Ştefănescu/flickr
Editor: Alicia Wozniak