The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. Mark Twain
A river was just a river until I met my biological family some years ago. At the time I was living in Deep Cove, a seaside village near Vancouver in a sheltered bay, where most of the weekends were spent at the beach swimming, canoeing and walking Rouge, my Irish Red Setter. But once I visited the river where my siblings grew up, the urge to romanticize the calm waters of a river took over. I wrote about the Saint John River as if I knew every rock along the shores. I wanted to belong to that place where ‘life every now and then becomes literature’ as Norman Maclean writes in A River Runs Through It and Other Stories. I felt the urge for a new kind of life on the banks of the river. In truth I was a woman that loved the energy of the city especially Vancouver, Montreal and New York. You can’t live there, my friends protested when I told them I was intent on buying a cottage on the Saint John River.
In the past 25 years so much has changed about the city. The cranes moved in and the sleepy communities like Mount Pleasant where I lived had to wake up. Church talk changed to housing or shared housing, buying homes with friends, missional communities, and where to house the clergy. The downtown eastside went upswing for hipsters, and the homeless continued to be pushed farther to anywhere in the city. In general one decides to either fight it or embrace the new landscape and discover the pathways through it.
Currently I live in the Faubourg du Rivage, Aylmer Québec close to the Ottawa River in the midst of likely the worst flood a river has brought in over 100 years. My quiet morning walk along the Parliament Trail on the Québec side has been disrupted by the overbearing power of the water. Families are canoeing into their homes. The army is present, the sand bags cannot be filled fast enough. Can we thank the volunteers enough?
The river will no longer be taken for granted. It will be harder to say casually - I was out strolling or biking along the river, as if one expects the water to calm us, energize us, or invoke any kind of emotion we need to express at any particular moment. No. The river has risen to power. Storming through dams, threatening bridge structures and devouring bicycle paths ; the river will no longer behave.
Although the river has stretched our boundaries and brought us grief, spring will rise with the promises of renewal. Out of the mud, debris, and loss, we will carve out a different path through a revised landscape along with enough grace to embrace the change.