I’m a child again. The car seems like a cavern on wheels. Mom and dad are yelling at each other. I slink to the back row and slump down to look up and out the window. I brace myself for each violent bend in the road by the river. The gravity pulls me with a force greater than my entire being. I fear we may slide off the road.
My sweaty little hands hold on to the seat as I press myself into it with my feet. The momentum hurls forward as the brakes squeal. Dad bites his fist then punches the ceiling rapidly. Mom screams bloody murder.
We take another turn and I feel that dread of being on a rollercoaster beyond my threshold. I stare up at the trees pirouetting away, as my body is jostled at the whim of this death car. Gushing downstream, they are heading for their abyss, and I, unseen and forgotten, am along for another ride.
Decades later, I return to the river roads of Colorado. I sit on the rocks at the bank of the river. It’s movement is as big to me now as that car was when I was a kid. The turbulent water mimics the chaos of my parents. The domineering boulders loom over me and cast blue shadows on the whitewash. My eyes catch momentum with the tortuous river. Its roar drowns out the distant screams of memories.
And the flow carries me to another river. A smoother river with gentle turns and a wider pathway. An ancient river who has the most curious objects floating down it. On the banks, I wait and collect whatever comes my way. The water has particles in it that sparkle with the warmest light. It washes over the rocks in a cleansing way. The soft sand molds itself to my foot. If I swim in it, it’s as wide or narrow as I want it to be.
This is an ancient place of sustenance for people of cultures formed along rivers all across the world and ever since we’ve been a species. There are currents of this water that flow from the oldest rivers of consciousness. It’s where Charon waits with his ferry.
My familiarity with this deep river feels etched into my biological self. The habitual patterns of ancient people gleaming along my nervous system like the golden light slipping over the surface of the river.
And the feeling of being in a vessel far bigger than me returns. Only this time, the car has transformed into a ship who forms to whatever shape the river takes.
And so I play River Man by Nick Drake. And his melancholic tone twists and turns into the most delicate sentiment. The beauty of sorrow transformed by the flow of guitar playing. There is an immensity of courage in this kind of work.
Where tragedy becomes art. Where trauma and loss are whitewash, more process than cause for resentment. Where everyone must navigate a path within this overwhelming flow of shared consciousness.