Life might best be conducted as a downstream flow;

a remembered lesson from when, at twenty-something,

I ran the West Branch of the Penobscot River.

Fire and ice, blood and water,

Dig In! Dig In! they told me; no matter

if my paddle sunk into a black hole

comprised of no substance at all.


The hardest was at the beginning,

just like my life.


Then we bashed and shuddered,

united in that undulating rubber raft,

holding on with feet thrust under gunwales

weighted down only by the volume

of air they contained;

next the river smoothed out

into rills and eddies, emerald banks

buttressing swirling cowlicks of steel blue water

and we bailed out, leaving paddles behind,

sleek like otters in those chilly depths.

Lie on your back, feet pointed downstream,

the only caveat, bobbing like neon corks

in bulky life vest padding.


Forty years later, that liberation,

explosion of frenetic chaos followed

by utter calm and support of flow,

still teaches me how human life may be borne.


image: West Branch of the Penobscot River –

3 comments on “Downstream”

  1. Funny how we so often want to head upstream . . . thinking the source is there.

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