Down By the River

I am not a very spontaneous person, as a rule. In view of this, I surprised even myself a little when I hopped in my car for an "escapade" as a friend called it, in her attempts to convince me to come along. I am also not a very directionally skilled person. So it was with some trepidation that I began the hour and a half trip, alone, to a river, with friends, for a birthday celebration.

I passed a sign, in front of a home, which used to say "for sale by owner" and now says "for sale: knives." In spite of this, I made it, there and back again, in one piece.

We played in the sun and the water and ate good food, made even better by the outdoors and the lightness of river living. In the evening, as the sun set over the water and the heat became a pleasant warmth, we talked and laughed and played games.


As we did, music from the 1950's played in the background. There were times when we had to stop the game because we were all singing along to "Rockin' Robin" "Barbara Ann" or "Earth Angel."

We snapped our fingers and swayed and sung our hearts out until the sun set completely, and the dark enveloped us, bringing us near the campfire.

There was a moment, as we connected with the music, that one of my friends leaned close and said: "Fifty years ago, even more, people were sitting around, playing games and listening to this music, isn't that amazing?" I squeezed her hand, because it was something that I would have said, and she knew it.

All of a sudden, as sometimes happens, I felt connected to those who have come before, and those who will come after. I felt a part of a story, a narrative, a collective memory.

That night I said something, to great laughter, that I have said before: "I love to look at water, if only I could get a job doing that." As I watched the ripples and waves, I thought about another old song: "Old Man River." I thought about all that this river has seen and will see, even as it bore witness to us, and to the start of another year for a dear friend.

It's easy for me to look at a story very close up. It is in that story that I live. I am invested in how it turns out. I just see the friends laughing on the deck, the birthday fireworks arcing into the sky and nearly scaring me to death. I'm learning to lean into the reminders that I am a part of something greater, something like the river or the music, which have watched and participated in many stories, and will continue to do so, for many stories to come.



(all photos are by Cara Strickland)