The Ripple: River Therapy

Take Me To The River

(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

I really love looking at pictures of people enjoying rivers. Lakes, ponds, pools and the ocean: these are great, but (with the exceptions of oceans) they are stagnant. I do love oceans, yet they’re too big to get a handle on and—dare I say it—beaches get boring.

Rivers, on the other hand, are dynamic and have tons of personality (Our rapid biotic assessments show us how different they are.). When we get near them after escaping buildings and cars, we experience a liberating emotional release—as Ray Davies so perfectly captures in the song, “Sitting by the Riverside” by The Kinks.

Whether it’s a leap of joy and dash to the edge, or a stoical surrender of complex thoughts to the onward round-the-bend flow, or a bright flash of sensory expansion as one is enveloped in a fresh kaleidoscope of sights, sounds and smells…People like to take pictures of themselves and their friends when they are next to rivers, and these kinds of emotional states are recorded…

Far more than pictures taken next to stagnant waters, they exhibit the primordial connection we have with the sources and forces of our own lives on our beautiful planet earth. That’s why I like looking at people enjoying rivers—and that’s why whenever I visit a city, I always end up having my picture taken next to them. They don’t represent the vitality of civilization; they are the vitality. The Hudson. The Nile. The Seine. The Ganges. The Volta. The Thames. The Spree. Keep going—you know that you do the same thing!

Our love of rivers runs so deep, and we are moved completely by them that, like our own noses, we hardly notice them. For this reason, I demand that you take some time off—play hooky!!—and explore a brook or river before the snows come. Right now you’ll find the witch hazel blooming, and you’ll also breath perfumes of forest and water that occur only during the biomic transition from green to brown. This kind of “aromatherapy” is very good for us, and I bet that if you experience it, you’ll find that ancient and beautiful thought-feelings arise and attend every fragrance.

One of the best ways of finding places to hike along brooks and rivers is to use MA DEP’s “Oliver” online mapping tool. Once you’re on the site, find “available data layers” in the upper right hand corner, and scroll down and double click on “hydrography water features.” Scroll down and select “USGS River and Streams 25k.” Now, zoom into your town (or wherever you want) on the main map, and you’ll see the rivers, and green-shaded areas. What you want to do first is find rivers in the green-shaded areas, which are conservation lands; second, you want find where you’ll park, which means you need to find a road that touches or is inside the green area. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready for an adventure!

Now—log off and get thee to the river!


Kurt Heidinger, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of Biocitizen, non-profit school of field environmental philosophy, based in the Western MA Hilltown of Westhampton, MA where he lives with his family.  Biocitizen gives participants an opportunity to “think outside” and cultivate a joyous and empowering biocultural awareness of where we live and who we are. Check out Kurt’s monthly column, The Ripple, here on Hilltown Families on the 4th Monday of every month to hear his stories about rivers in our region. Make the world of rivers bigger than the world of pavement inside of you!

3 Comments on “The Ripple: River Therapy

  1. Rivers are my favorite too–or babbling brooks and creeks. There is nothing like the flow of water–to know its part of a watershed and something bigger than itself. Ocean is commanding and obvious. Rivers are mysterious at times “where does it go? where does it come from?” and the variety of speed and flow in a river. The way the sunlight hits a fast moving creek or a rapid filled river. We routinely seek out hikes that meet with or walk along a river.

  2. What a pleasure to read and enjoy this!! See you on the river Kurt.

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