I’ve just finished a class in bio-diversity and the result of that is the following story that I wrote. I hope you all enjoy it.
I wish you a very pleasant end to your week and weekend.
The Story of a River
by Barbara Mattio
I am a river. Well, I am the spirit of a river. They call me the French Broad River. I am as old as the mountains; older even. I think that the mountains, the ancient trees, the sky, Mother Earth and myself have a very deep connection. I don’t know for sure but we all have seem to always been here. Maybe we are as old as Time. Yet there are many other kinds of life around us. I have many friends here. Some are here for a season and some come and go for several seasons like the birds.
I am known as a rebel among other rivers; you see, I flow from South to North. I have confused more than one creature, even human beings. I flow in the south of this big land mass. I remember how quiet it used to be. My companions were the mighty bear, the deer, and the elk. The hawks and eagles soared high above me and I could hear them call out to one another. I could hear the rabbits and squirrels scampering amongst the trees. I could hear it all because there was no other sound except for the wind; the wind, which carried the hawk in his search for food. Sometimes, the hawk would swoop down and catch a fish swimming within my banks. They never failed to stop and murmur hello to me. I cherish the memory of those sounds. I hear them less often now. There are several eagles who fly along my river bed and always greet me and I look forward to their greetings everyday.
The wind has always been a welcome companion, its currents gently touching my surface on a hot summer’s day. Other times, the wind’s icy fingers touch my surface and chill me completely, but I always know spring will follow eventually.
During a rain storm, I can feel the wind’s energy pick up and the gusts sweep across me as it warns of the visit of a coming storm. I can hear the branches and twigs of my friends, the trees, rub together as the wind gusts through their tall trunks. They make a kind of moaning and groaning sound that accompanies the wind gusts in a melancholy little dirge.
When rain does visit me, I can feel each individual drop hitting my surface, often gently, and at other times like the anger at the heart of Gaea. (I do not exaggerate, Mother Earth has much to be angry at. She has become ill lately and she struggles to recover her previous vitality and ability to heal.) The storms don’t mean to hurt; there is just sometimes more energy that comes with them than other times. Soft rains or drenching storms, they fill my riverbed with the water that all my friends need for life. During a storm, thunder and lightning come to visit also. They are very noisy friends. But they boom and zigzag across the sky and I do love to watch a storm and so do the fish who live within my banks.
I flow energetically to the north, watching animals large and small. Why, just the other day, I saw a wolf take down a fawn for her pups to eat… I think it was the other day. Life flows along my river banks. The rabbits hop about and the squirrels and chipmunks race around looking for the nuts they buried last year. The raccoons wash their hands and food in my water. A baby snapping turtle meandered up to my banks just today and I was thrilled to see the little guy. A black bear came ambling out of the forest but he doesn’t like to eat turtles. The little guy did go into his shell just to be sure. That old bear and I had fun talking about the old days here in the Appalachian Mountains. He tells me stories his grandfather bear told to him. He did ask me if I knew of any good honey in these parts as he had walked here from farther down South. I gave him a couple of suggestions. I think he will be enjoying some honey later on today. The baby turtle quietly came back out of his shell and scurried away. Ha. Well, he hurried as much as he could and, boy, did he have a story to tell his friends. A family of river
Otters found their way into my waters recently. I hadn’t seen a family of them in quite awhile. It was good to see this family. They seem very happy and content.
Life flows within my banks also. There are fish and algae and some forms of life that I cannot see, but know they depend on me for their existence. Along my banks are lichen, moss, algae, fungi and others who live because they need my waters.
I touch many lives as I flow on my journey North. Often, fox and rabbits come and drink from me, as do others, receiving life and cooling water to enjoy as their journey continues. They are always busy going somewhere. The deer and rabbits are good friends and seem to enjoy romping in and out of the forest and once or twice a rabbit has fallen into my water. That always is a good laugh. They aren’t swimmers like the beavers are. Oh, the beavers. Good swimmers and always building dams. I tell them not to bottle me up but they just seem to have to do it. It must be like the trees have to shed their leaves every autumn.
One of my companions in this ever increasingly noisy world is the trees. Some of my friends, the trees, have known me as long as I have been here. It is satisfying to have old friends gather around you. The trees live along my banks and form forests and live upon the mountain slopes. As I flow along, sometimes swirling, sometimes slowly meandering, I hear their greetings brought to me on the breath of the wind. It is comforting to hear them all along my way through the mountains.
I often consult my tree friends when I am confused about time. Sometimes it is difficult to decide if spring has actually arrived. Sometimes it will feel like spring has arrived, but it is a trick.
The trees always have the right answer. They seem to remember when it has come before. They grow leaves at the right time and shed them at the right time. I find this to be handy.
I really enjoy the song birds. They come to catch worms on my banks and ask if I want to hear a song. Then they sing for me as I flow along. It makes for a very happy day just flowing and listening to the happy songs of the birds until they become hungry from following me and fly off to find worms.
My favorite time is when the frogs, toads, dragonflies and butterflies come to play on my shores. They skip around playing a form of tag. When twilight arrives, the frogs and toads call out to catch a gal for the evening. I love to listen and watch this whole mating concert. In early summer, the lightning bugs join in and we have the concert and the flickering lights. It makes for very enjoyable evenings.
Today, I am enjoying the sunshine and the blue skies. These human beings who have arrived have brought much noise with them, actually if I am to be completely truthful, they have brought most of it. The noise didn’t arrive all at once, and I don’t exactly remember when it started, but there is a lot of constant noise, now. I don’t know if it will continue to grow. It bothers the trees, the fish, the animals and the birds. And me, of course.
It is quieter at night and I flow beneath a sky lit by the stars and the moon that have been there as long as I can remember. I have asked the oldest tree, a very gnarled and tall guy who lives by a bend in my path; he is a tulip popular and stands 100 feet tall and 20 feet in diameter and has a huge crown, I think he is very wise; I ask if he remembers a time when stars and moon weren’t in the sky, and he does not. I wonder if there was time when only the stars, the moon and I lived here among the mountains. Sometimes I wish the mountains could speak so I could ask them. I know they would have the answer. There was probably a time when we all did live quietly together and there were few of my other friends here. They must have begun to arrive slowly after that. I do remember that there was a gradual increase of life here in the mountains. And…there has been a gradual decrease of life too. But it is improving. Yes, it is improving. Like my new visitor the black bear who wondered up here from the South. He told me there are more families of bear where he came from.
I always think of the mountains as the strong sentinels that protect the rest of us from dangerous storms and things we don’t even know about. They are always silent and proud. They watch me as I flow by and they protect the trees and the animals. The large birds, like the falcons and hawks, often fly from majestic pinnacle to majestic pinnacle. It is quite a sight to see. It always thrills me.
While we live here well together, these humans don’t seem to understand us well. Since their arrival, many of my friends become sick more often. Many die. This sadness is felt by all of us. The humans don’t seem to care that they make us sick. I don’t know why that is…can’t they see all of us suffering? Can’t they see my water droplets looking peaked? The animals don’t have as many babies as they used to, and the birds don’t sing as often. It may not seem important, but these things are important to all of us the members of the natural world. We rely on each other and our communication with each other. The air is not as sweet to breathe as it once was. My waters are not as clean. I worry about the trees and animals that depend on my water. A river can’t die, can it?
It has rained for two days up in the mountains and water is flowing down the mountainsides. All of that beautiful water is running into my riverbed. As the sun moves towards dusk, I see a barred owl fly by. I am sure he is hungry and about to hunt for his favorite for his favorite dinner, shrews and bats. I wish him good luck for his hunting. Darkness descends and the crickets sound off. The frogs and toads begin their mating song. Later on as I pass by the forests and the mountains, the barred owl, with his full stomach, settles on a tree branch and we begin to share stories of long ago times. It is a satisfying way to spend a night.
Sunrise and sunset are my favorite times of day. Life changes and everyone comes out to great one another and to do a little frolicking. It is now sunset and I like to gaze at the horizon and watch the sensational display created by Mother Earth. Dead center on the horizon, there stands in silhouette a mammoth elk. He has a huge rack that he wears with pride. He has earned these antlers by surviving hundreds of predator attacks over the years. Now he stands strong, regal, and brave watching the day slide into the night.
Today humans are floating on my waters. They are laughing and talking a lot. They have built these things that float on my water. It tickles a little. I must say this contact I enjoy with humans. I like hearing them laugh. It is a tinkling sound that I hadn’t heard before. They also get in these floating things and sit out on my water very quietly. They stick poles into the water and sometimes they lift the pole up and one of the fish is on the end of it. I think they will eat it. That is part of life though.
When I first observed human beings, they walked everywhere or used horses, then they made ribbons of gray on the earth and rode in boxes upon wheels. Now it seems they can go anywhere. I suppose the noise is everywhere, too. I know, I talk about noise too much, but it bothers a lot of us. It actually scares many of the animals. It probably isn’t going to get quiet again. Oh well.
The humans build dwellings to live in which are very different from the caves and nests built by other kinds of life. Their habitats use many resources that won’t be easily replaced. To me, it seems like a waste. You never see them living in a tree or under a bush.
Tonight, we will meet as we did of old, and forget the noise and the humans. We will meet under the night sky; mountains, forests, river, animals, birds, fungi, lichen, algae, and little bits of life I cannot see; we will celebrate our lives and how well our lives fit together and how our diversity makes our Mother Earth a richer, healthier place for all to live. The moon and stars will mark the occasion with their crystal light as all of nature meets at my river banks on the full moon of celebration.
We always have gathered together on the full moon. It is glorious to see the moon and the stars shining and as everyone nuzzles each other or sounds out their greetings to others to know that we are all the same. We fit together so well and we help each other as we go along in our lives. We are all star dust. This is what deeply connects us all here in nature. It is a fact that I love. I love how everyone comes together regularly and my banks are filled with creatures ready to celebrate our timeless ritual. I am not sure what the humans would call our ritual, but we just call it the full moon. I can feel the moon pulling upon my waters. It doesn’t hurt me but it gives me a feeling of being very full. We are together until the dawn begins to rise over the horizon. Then, sleepily, everyone begins to go back to their homes. I slowly meander to the North. I like to go over the events of the night and I am never in a hurry on my way North on this one day. For this one day, I simply enjoy the memories of our coming together and I am happy to see that more creatures have begun to arrive at my banks. This is very good. Perhaps some of the things humans have begun to do have made it easier for some kinds of life to grow more and to become more populous.
Oh look, there is a clump of wildflowers. I like flowers but I like them best because as I flow along, they smell so good. They make such fun companions. They dance and bow and bend their heads and their perfume fills the air with every movement. A skunk just sniffed a bright orange flower and sneezed repeatedly. He should know better.
But I am moving along and there are so many creatures to see on my way and I think that the beavers have been building again. My left bank on the upper part of my journey feels full. Time to check on what is happening. Oh, does and fawns are crossing to the other side. I can feel them walking on my river bottom. It is a strange feeling. Strange but not unwelcome. Now when the bears go charging through, I really feel that.
But it is all life. It is our life. It is the life that the mountains, trees, animals, flowers, stars, birds and all of nature share.