Rivers Get Us

Like addicts, in our weakness for the allure of rivers we risk everything to live on their banks.


Photo 1: At the first official campsite created in the Saranac River Public Use Area of the Sable Highlands Conservation Easement, Goldsmith, NY

Civilization grew from riverbanks for utilitarian reasons, but rivers also satisfy our need for inspiration, peace, excitement, passion, challenge, fun and joy.

In rivers we may sense, at least in glimpses, both the timelessness and the impermanence of nature, including our own, if we let the river in.


Photo 2: Same location, looking downstream

Rivers taunt our delight in mystery and chance. We love to marvel in the grace and the violence of rivers.


Photo 3: Secret Slice of Eden. If you want to know where this is, you have to be escorted through the same bushwhack I made to get there. Or I suppose you could just ask for directions.

Many of us find friendship, companionship, consolation, and in some ways, even salvation in a river. As we find ourselves in rivers flowing, we find rivers flowing in ourselves, awakened to the fluidity of being.


Photo 4: Another reward of the same bushwhack day, same river.

Where Go the Boats?
by Robert Louis Stevenson, 1885

Dark brown is the river,
Golden is the sand.
It flows along for ever,
With trees on either hand.

Green leaves a-floating,
Castles of the foam,
Boats of mine a-boating—
Where will all come home?

On goes the river
And out past the mill,
Away down the valley,
Away down the hill.

Away down the river,
A hundred miles or more,
Other little children
Shall bring my boats ashore.


Photo 5: So maybe Shangri-La doesn’t exist. But it has many imitators. At the base of a series of solid rock slopes down to the water, just off the lower left corner of this picture, there is a pool of calm water big enough to swallow a pickup truck up to its windows.

Who hears the rippling of rivers
will not utterly despair of anything.


It is pleasant to have been to
a place the way a river went.
— Henry David Thoreau


Photo 6: Looking upstream from the rocks at the river bank, at or near the location of one of the campsites that the state plans to add to the Saranac River Public Use Area (Goldsmith).

The Brook
by Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1864

I come from haunts of coot and hern,
I make a sudden sally
And sparkle out among the fern,
To bicker down a valley.

By thirty hills I hurry down,
Or slip between the ridges,
By twenty thorpes, a little town,
And half a hundred bridges.

Till last by Philip’s farm I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I chatter over stony ways,
In little sharps and trebles,
I bubble into eddying bays,
I babble on the pebbles.

With many a curve my banks I fret
By many a field and fallow,
And many a fairy foreland set
With willow-weed and mallow.

I chatter, chatter, as I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I wind about, and in and out,
With here a blossom sailing,
And here and there a lusty trout,
And here and there a grayling,

And here and there a foamy flake
Upon me, as I travel
With many a silvery waterbreak
Above the golden gravel,

And draw them all along, and flow
To join the brimming river
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I steal by lawns and grassy plots,
I slide by hazel covers;
I move the sweet forget-me-nots
That grow for happy lovers.

I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance,
Among my skimming swallows;
I make the netted sunbeam dance
Against my sandy shallows.

I murmur under moon and stars
In brambly wildernesses;
I linger by my shingly bars;
I loiter round my cresses;

And out again I curve and flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.


Photo 7: Same location, different rock.

And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.
William Shakespeare, from As You Like It


I’m not much for poetry, mostly because of ignorance about it, but there are some pieces that do not escape my appreciation.

~  ~  ~

All photos taken by Dennis Koenig in August and September 2013 in the Town of Franklin, Franklin County, NY, within the Adirondack Mountain Region.

Suggested Reading and seeing:

Trout Branch Scar Revisited – and deeply, by bushwhack – (streamsandforests.wordpress.com) – Jenny knows how to bushwhack. I have the hunch that there’s only one rule for her: to let the land and water lead you on, not fight it. Here she offers spectacular pictures of a stream through the scar cut by a landslide in the Smoky Mountains. I’ve never seen anything like it, in person, on TV, in a movie, or in my imagination. But I have seen red rocks. Also visit her author’s website, JennyBennett.net where the range of her work and play shows the allure of rivers flowing in her.


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