Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Song of the River

Most of my life I have lived on or near water. I was born in a little southern Illinois town that is nestled up again the Ohio River. Not realizing that it is happening, the river becomes a big part of your life. You learn to monitor its moods. Will this be the year when the river will spill over its banks and destroy homes and crops? Will this be the year someone will misjudge its strength and lose his life? You learn to listen to the river and pay attention when its attitude changes.

We never swam in the river, choosing instead Big Creek, an ice cold country stream, as our swimming pool. No waiting in line or admission price to pay, we romped and splashed and had a good time. Contamination and pollution were not problems – we never even considered the possibilities, but that was a simpler age. Then we moved to southern Indiana, close to, but not on the river. Our town was built on the river, though, and since the beginning, the river influenced our lives – from transportation to entertainment. It is still true today.

I lost track of the river for several years while living in a large metropolitan area, but then, after I was married and had children, we moved to a house on a dead end road with a small lake or what we called The Pond. It was not the same as a river, but it was still water and it still played a part in our lives. This was where my children learned to ice skate, swirling and twirling and playing hockey. It was also where my children fed the ducks, caught fish, threw them back in and caught more. The Pond was their playground, but we always respected the dangers hidden under the surface.

Then, much later, we moved back to southern Indiana to a house overlooking the Ohio River. It was good to again be close to an old familiar friend. The Ohio is muddy and often smelly, but it sings its own special song that calls out to you.

I don’t live on the river now, but I visit often, watching the barges chug back and forth, and the sun winking off the water. I miss the river when I don't see it and I miss hearing its song.

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