The Ripple: Listen to the Story of the River
The Importance of Escaping to the River
A walk alongside one or our rivers is a walk with a companion, even when alone. Cares of the world will ping pong and even hornet in the head ‘til settled by rushing water. Give a river a chance, when one’s thoughts have quieted down: listen—it tells a story, and like every really good story, it draws us out of our heads and into another.
Asked how I began to love rivers so much, I recall how as a lad I’d scoot to the flow whenever things stagnated, or became too crazed, in a house with three brothers. No matter the boredom or conflict I escaped from, the river—Silvermine river it is—settled the ping pongs in my head by providing fresh and loud sensations, and endless opportunities for adventure. Rafting down it in cold April floods, in cheap inflatable pool rafts that punctured instantly (unless steered by experienced skippers), introduced me to hyperthermia, blue lips and the need to pack hot chocolate in thermos.’ (We wore cotton back then, and I remember shivering for hours like a wet cat on an iceberg. The experience toughened me up, and made me realize that dressing correctly makes all the difference between teeth gritting and laughing when on the adventure. To this day, I dress so I when sleep in snowdrifts, I purr.)
All of this is making me think the argument presented in “The Overprotected Kid” is one worth considering. I find this part most interesting:
Children, [concludes Ellen Sandseter, a professor of early-childhood education], have a sensory need to taste danger and excitement; this doesn’t mean that what they do has to actually be dangerous, only that they feel they are taking a great risk. That scares them, but then they overcome the fear. In the paper, Sandseter identifies six kinds of risky play: (1) Exploring heights, or getting the “bird’s perspective,” as she calls it—“high enough to evoke the sensation of fear.” (2) Handling dangerous tools—using sharp scissors or knives, or heavy hammers that at first seem unmanageable but that kids learn to master. (3) Being near dangerous elements—playing near vast bodies of water, or near a fire, so kids are aware that there is danger nearby. (4) Rough-and-tumble play—wrestling, play-fighting—so kids learn to negotiate aggression and cooperation. (5) Speed—cycling or skiing at a pace that feels too fast. (6) Exploring on one’s own.
Earth is giant playground: was & always will be.
One of the greatest pleasures imaginable, I think, is skiing straight down the fronts of treeless glaciated mountains; and since I am afraid to do it, movies like this entertain me to no end. Somewhere in between extreme alpine skiing and cabin fever are our nearby brooks or streams. Go there to escape, and for adventure. For the next two months, the ice will rise and extend, allowing us to venture into areas we normally can’t access, especially wetlands.
Intense beauty is found in the river ice that varies from massive shifting bergs to fluted organ icicles to delicate spiderfrost lacings. Be adventurous and skirt the edge, but do be careful; use snowshoes, and have a friend close by if you can’t resist walking in spots that clogged with frozen floes.
Or just walk alone for an hour alongside you local brook or river, and let it draw you in to your limit of curiosity and then draw you out. Because rivers do that. They draw us out of ourselves.
Editors Note: Take care around ice jams and keep a safe distance. This amazing video will illustrate the how quickly a flood can occur when an ice jam releases.
Photo credit: (cc) Russ Hawker]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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!