Put a candle in the window–
‘Cause I feel I’ve got to move
Though I’m going, going
I’ll be coming home soon
Long as I can see the light–
(Creedence Clearwater Revival)
I got it bad. I mean real bad. It happens this time of year, and I’ve gotten used to it, for the most part. But this year – this year, the gentle breath of a whisper on the nape of my neck is a yell, a siren’s song of traveling, of moving along.
Makes me mad, sometimes, but I’ve got nobody to blame but myself. I guess I made choices that seemed right at the time, though mostly they were anything but. It’s this crazy life. This prison we build for ourselves. I’m as guilty of it as anyone, at times, building walls and fences around myself.
Once, my ancestors would send hunting parties into the area that would become Texarkana to hunt buffalo. All the way from here, Chitimacha would head into that region and come back with buffalo meat and hides. I wish I could go back, go with them. That was back before the horse came with the Spaniards. They had to walk it. Imagine the journey! The spectacular, unspoiled prairies below modern-day Alexandria, lands then occupied by Attakapas, and to the north the rolling hills, pine forests and meandering streams and rivers, home to Caddo and Adai. Perhaps my grandfathers even went into the Ouachitas Mountains at times, and I can hear, centuries later, the same fast-moving creeks and rivers, gin-clear, chanting, singing, making songs to mark their visit, telling my forebears its lineage, how it formed, the rock it has cut into, the dust and ashes it has carried.
What would I love? To sit beside a river and share our lineages. That, I would love, because even without all the things taken from me before I was born – songs, dances, spirits and sacred words – the one thing I have left is that I understand the language of rivers.
I am no brave. I am too cowardly to do what my heart wants me to do: Cast it all aside and wander. Wander, from hither to yon, there and back again.
Guess I’ve got that old travelin’ bone–
‘Cause this feelin’ won’t leave me alone
But I won’t, won’t
Be losin’ my way, no, no
Long as I can see the light –
Mountains have ruined me. I can hear them, I can feel them. They beckon me. Oh, but the sights I saw there! In deep ravines, along windswept creek beds, overlooks and sandy bars. I can’t get there right now, because of this crazy life, but soon I’ll retreat to the hills not far from here, along a sandstone terraced stream where my cell phone falls silent save for the "no signal" message on the little grayscale screen.
Rivers know this: There is no hurry. We shall get there some day. (A.A. Milne)
There’s a fine dream: Follow a river, upstream, from her delta to her source. I am lonely for rivers. I am lonely for current and swiftness. I am lonesome for rapids and slow flows. Milne must have felt this, for he also wrote, "Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known."
There’s a song, if I ever heard one.
Yes, yes, yes, there it is again, that fascination with water. I can’t be too long from it. My soul withers and desiccates, becomes a husk. Sorry for it, I know it gets laborious to read. But soon, I’ll sink my feet into it, just up to my ankles at first, maybe to my knees or even my waist as I search along its course for fish but really I am searching for erudition and truth.
Everything there is to be known…
I know. Forgive me. I can’t explain it, nor can I control it. It consumes and envelops me, like fire, but it’s water, the antithesis of flame. We’re bags of mostly water, our bodies, anyway. We’ll die from lack of it sooner than we’ll starve. Dry up, like a seed husk.
Oh, yes. Not long now. I’ll follow that meander, like the spine of a snake, through hills laid down thousands of years ago, white sand bars on the point banks, rocks piled here and there by floods of yesteryear. Good Lord, how can I not? It’s a few miles, a few dozen at most. But it might take me somewhere else around a bend. Someplace different from here. Not quite here, but not quite there, if you get my meaning. Like the shadows under bridges. Just off the edge of the map. Those are the lineages of rivers. Those are the genealogies of time.
The song of the river ends not at her banks, but in the hearts of those who have loved her. (Buffalo Joe)
Forgive me. I am unable to think of anything else. The synapses in my brain are too dry to fire correctly, the moisture of my eyes is so scant I can barely see. I need water, cold and fast. My backwater lakes and swamps suffice, but mountains have ruined me. Made these four walls, fluorescent lights and office noises all the more unbearable.