Mountain water is treacherous. It seems so calm and tame, an unbridled power and an internal rage deep within it. And I came, as a child, to respect it, to fear it, and to love it.
I slept nights at my parents’ cabin with Fall River pouding in my ears. It was right behind the cabin, and rang with such force it was scary. Except in summer when it slumbered and spat out only a trickle, in which we would wade and laugh and play. But never, ever otherwise.
Ironically, the sound of running water (even a faucet) to this day relaxes me, and unleashes something primal deep within me. I feel it, and I hear it so many miles away and feel like I am home.
As I child, I once came upon people with big microphones just recording Fall River’s sound. I was so intrigued. The idea of capturing its mere sound and taking it home. Wow! I wish I had recorded it and kept it forever with me.
The river was so massive it even broke off into a parallel stream by the cabin, and we could play in the stream but were forbidden to go to the river. We doused ourselves regularly in the stream with its icy torrents, picking up stones and plunging them back in. I wrote a poem about those stones many years ago (and many poems subsequently). And I still recall the wonder of the water and the mystery it instilled in me.
And the incredible landmarks in the stream are forever etched into my brain. We lived by them. One was a giant rock that was in the shape of a sombrero. We called it the Mexican hat because in grade school we learned folk dances and loved the Mexican Hat Dance. One rock was covered in mica, and we worshiped at its shiny glory like a cathedral.
There were places to cross, places to avoid, and places to sit and admire. Summertime pools with tiny life swimming about were enchantments of a lifetime.
In 1982 a giant flood ripped the landscape a new seam. The river is closer to the cabin now. Sadly, the stream is gone. The magical places I remember are committed to memory alone. We never even took photos…
Many things about that flood erased a part of my childhood. It hurts to recall the loss. But I remember the scenery the way it was. It is equally beautiful now, truthfully. And life is about resiliency and forging new paths. I try to remember that, and swallow the pain of the present and know the past had its suffering as well. The stream bed was not always there. Another flood must have cut its path.
Change is hard, painful even. But the beauty of the present is meant to be embraced. It becomes our future, and from there we grow the roots that sustain. Everything is ultimately anchored in the past. Our strength is in those roots. But every hope resides in the future. And to there we cast our gaze.
Here is to futures. To landscapes undefined, to streambeds uncut, and to rivers that find their path, no matter what we, ignorant people, care or control.
- Mary O. Fumento, 2008