Faces In the River

Serpent cloud in Deerfield River by AriannaIf you watch the river long enough, you will see faces in the stone. Old faces. New faces. Faces that tell us of our past and faces that tell us of our future. Faces that tell us of possibilities.
What do you see when you look beneath the surface?

The river is constantly changing – new water is streaming down unceasingly. Silt and pebbles too are carried downstream. But when you visit the bottom, time drifts slower there. The rock is slowly worn away, over a millennia. Generations of freshwater clams, snails, and crayfish live and die in the same section of the waterway. Shad, herring, and sea lamprey return to their birthplaces to mate and lay eggs. The rock is nursery, hiding place, hunting place. The stone is home.

Photo credit: Dee Brochu

One day while visiting the river, I noticed the figure of a lady in the stone. This madonna shimmered in the water, like a naiad from the stories; long hair flowing, one hand beckoning the land creature to come in the water and join her beneath the surface in holy communion. Her song was that of water lapping stone; lulling. Mesmerizing. Or it could be. When did we humans get so busy that we could barely take the time to just sit with the stones in the water? What could we learn by hanging out amongst the crayfish and clams?

Our bodies buoy and it is not so easy to plant our bottoms in the swift moving river. We have to hold fast with feet and hands and do our best not to slip. And it’s cold. Refreshing. But never relaxing. And where did the Lady of the River go? I saw her. I swear it. But now, in the river I could not find her calm, serene face. I wanted to feel that serenity in myself.

It took me years to learn to stop visiting and start being. I stopped rocking in the waves and started being the rock that created the ripples. I let the crayfish crawl over my toes. I let the minnow nibble my knees. I found peace experiencing the movement around me, knowing that though I was a part of it and helping to create it; I was one among many. We are all part of the stream; all a part of its flow.




Arianna Alexsandra Collins, naturalist, poet, writer, and wild edible enthusiast lives in Ashfield, MA.

Into the Outside by AriannaInto the Outside is a bi-monthly feature in the Ashfield News and Shelburne Falls & West County Independent. This article appears in the June, 2017 edition of the Shelburne Falls & West County Independent.

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