The River Breaks

by Mary McCarthy (Notes) on Saturday, July 30, 2011 at 8:15pm

Sunday afternoon, parked by the river, I sat in a friend’s car sharing a Reese’s cup and staring listlessly out at a pile of dirty snow. She said, “Can you see the water? I am imagining a tropical sea with the moon shining down on the water.” My view was a large hunk of half frozen, very grimy snow. No water. No tropical sea. I suppose life comes down to perspective.

Perspective: the angle or view one has of how things are. It seems to a great degree how we view reality defines reality. I suppose if I were a quantum physicist I would say perspective absolutely defines reality.

Everyone seems restless, maybe not dreaming of tropical seas but certainly dreaming of a free running river stocked with fat, juicy, salmon ready to jump into the net happily. Many are dreaming of summer and the color green and the long, slow days of fish camp. No more dirty, brownish snow piles. The people I work with are restless. I can almost taste their energy, energy too long contained by winter, by limits, by rules. They are looking for mischief. It is a slippery slope I say to them, knowing that I might as well be speaking Swahili. Their energy demands open rivers to race down, no cares, space and time with the rules off. We all want freedom. The dream of tropical seas with the moonlight on them hints of no rules, no daily wearing tasks but freedom, timelessness, ease. The problem is that for the folks I work with the means to that timelessness and freedom is through a cheap, plastic bottle of R & R, then blackout. The day after begins with wondering what you did the night before. Saying there is no freedom in this only works, and only works partly, that morning after. For some folks the R& R is the only tropical sea they know.

So speaking slowly, mouthing the words carefully, I caution, there are many forms of freedom: you can take the rules off and relax without the R & R, without the breaking of rules that will take away your freedom and everything else you hold dear. It is all in how you look at it. It is all in having the patience to wait for the river to break, for the salmon to come, for the swallows to fly. It is all in being able to see the tropical sea and smell the ocean while looking at a half frozen river. Perspective.

Today the swallows sit on top of the strangely canted swallow house, put up hastily as I realized they were already outside the window. One poor little guy sitting on top of the pole that had fallen last winter stares sadly into my window, his gaze imploring me, “Please put up my house, this was where it was, wasn’t it?” Today the house is up and the pair, the formerly sad swallow and a partner are dragging bits of tundra in to furnish it for new life. Spring is finally here. The river has broken.

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