I’ve loved the short story, “A River Runs Through It,” forever. I’ve read it a thousand times. The story is so simple, the language so beautiful, and the truths of life taught and found in the light of the canyons as the characters fly fish are innumerable. I never had the patience to be a great fisherman, but, as I got older, and moved west, there was no denying there is something truly magical and transformative about the art of fly fishing. The act of casting itself is an art form. The ability to move in the clear, fresh, almost untouched waters of Montana and Idaho is simply magical. This week is my birthday and I have plans to share a few of the poem that are extra special to me. This poem is one of them. Ironically, the poem did not come in Oregon, Idaho, and/or Montana. It was not written as the book sat in my tent for weeks (the only book I had for months) as I did environmental work out west. The poem came years later. It came during a time when my mom was sick. I barely had time to breathe between work and things going on inside my personal life. One afternoon, the line, “If a River Runs Through It,” just kept coming back to me. I began to write and what came felt spiritual to me. The same feelings that rushed over me as I fished in those rivers out West, came over me again. The feeling of being in those waters was perfection, and God, and time, and all these things. I truly belief the earth is a living breathing entity. I am not lost on the fact, that when I needed a mother the most, Mother Earth stepped in to remind me of some very valuable things. When I read this poem, there’s a part of me that goes somewhere else. There’s also a part of me, at the end of the poem, that quietly whispers, ‘thank you,’ to Mother Earth for knowing just how much I needed her that day. I truly believe writing and nature are my greatest healers. In this very special poem to me, they joined forces, and I am forever grateful to them for the experience.
If a River Runs Through It
If a river runs through it, I will speak in the language of shadows, moisture, wind.
If the moonlight above me is intense, it is possible that I am struck by a species of celestial lighting.
If you were searching for grasshoppers and I was one, you missed me in the leaves of the tomato plant.
If you spoke to her mother she would have told you of the consequence of in-caution, the turbulence of veering from an obvious path.
If ever there were signs that configuration of the party was over, it is the gone of the green with its waterfalls and tamed lagoons.
If we ever witnessed the night under stars from a mutually exclusive galaxy, the light is what we would have perceived differently.
If you’ve ever heard someone sing about heartbreak and pain, you’ve been scented in smoke, magnolias, bruises, and gashes that don’t heal easily.
If you ever watched a palm, you notice that they seem to desire to make themselves more vertical as to attract the wind.
If you ever witnessed the first implications of dusk, you know there will be prey.
If you’ve looked at the veins of your limbs and the veins of the earth, there is an identical form of expression as substance moves from air to liquid to gas to flame with fluidity.
If you’ve ever seen a calm lake, you know how it feels to hold a woman in red silk and soothe her.
If you’ve ever seen the amber of perfumes in tinted vials on nightstands beside tequila and rosaries, your eyes have met the love amber of stalled woman in December.
If the wind blows sand into your bones, you have felt the mix of bones and petals, cold air craving embrace.
If there is an orchid, smell its slow birth and its perfection.
If at the lip of monumentally cold and remote ocean, be sheared raw at a shore that is momentarily unutterable in what it reveals.
If I persisted, it’s cause I noticed the sky never fully darkens.
If my hands were hidden in warmth of my sleeves as if I didn’t need fingers, you witnessed that God can move alone through my eyes.
When I open the curtains these days, the sun is positioned like a Spanish Dancer assuming her pose in the stage of the sky.
When I drank of the insistent southern heat and excessively scented afternoons of flowers and ripening trees, you know of that transitory period where I might have just loved her.
If a river runs through it, close your eyes and wade in, let yourself be baptized in all that divides your boundaries, your breaths.