A view of the river from our camp site.
Letters,  Observations

A Letter From the Riverside

Dear Friends,

This past weekend, I went camping by the Potomac River in West Virginia. When I first sat down by this river on Friday afternoon, I began to cry, and the river seemed to say: “If you have been crying, good! Tears are cleansing, and we have a lot of cleaning to do.”

If you can go to nature now, I hope you do. If you can’t get to a forest or a river, find a tree wherever you live. Say hello when you walk by, and pause to listen for a reply. Even a young tree has deep roots, so don’t assume you can’t learn from the baby birch or maple outside your apartment building. Make an effort to learn the names of our neighbors, be they rooted, legged, or otherwise. It’s only polite. Become familiar with a few kinds of plants. Edible and medicinal herbs are a nice place to start. Or flowers if you’re in need of cheer.

Find moving water. Any stream will do. Study how it moves. Ask it where it’s going. Consider what it means to flow. Do not discount the magical river that only appears on your sidewalk after a rain. It always flows back to the source. So do we. All water is connected — right down to the water in our bodies. We are permeable beings, and none of us is truly isolated.

Remember that Earth is not a closed system. The sun and moon and stars all give us something, too. Even the vast unknown beyond provides — a sense of wonder, a drive to explore, a source of more knowledge, room for growth and adventure, an invitation to step outside what we already are and become something entirely new.

I spent the weekend remembering happy times with other friends on on other rivers, from childhood vacations at state parks to cutting school to swim in the river. I’ve been thinking about the summer I attended a writing camp, which was also the summer I knew for sure I was queer. One of those days, we went to a local festival on a river where I swam in cold rushing water with my first queer friends, feeling the shock of the water and the delight of slipping comfortably into an identity I’d once been afraid of. As recently as last summer I floated down the river in a flotilla of inner tubes networked together with ropes and hand-holds — an almost perfect representation of our family of friends navigating the river of life together. And this summer, I come to the river carrying the heartache of this year, and she bears it, and she flows and flows and flows.

May you find flow. May you find peace. May you sense your connection to the natural world, which holds and supports you even when you don’t know it. May you stay connected to your friends and loved ones as we flow through this difficult moment in history together.

Sending you love and best wishes ~

Mary