Archive for August, 2011

From the air, of all the features on the ground, it is the river we see first. Not roads or ranches or restaurants, but the river, wild and snaking along gravity’s lowest flow. We often lose sight of the river when we travel on the ground. Roads bully their way through the shortest route between two points. You miss much of the river so you have to get out of the car to really see it, to touch it, and feel its bank with your feet. The essence of the river cannot be glimpsed: It must be experienced, first hand, first foot, first eye, first soul, first spirit.  You must speak with the river as you would a friend, face-to-face, belly-to-belly. You cannot email the river.

Ideally, you must float on the river as the ancients did the Petaluma: in Tule reed boats and rafts. Every day, they rode the river and felt its silky surface, studied its ways, and knew its every inhabitant and plant. The villager didn’t ask the fisherman, “How was the river today?” There was no need to ask such a question. The answer lay near the surface of her consciousness. She knew the answer as she knew how to breathe. She knew the answer as she knew when spring had arrived.  She knew the answer as she knew the nape of her husband’s neck.  The river was a source of their sustenance—full, clean, cold, ripe.  The fish he offered for dinner were a blessing from the earth, from the abundant waters.

After the Native Americans were gone, the Petaluma River became, for years, almost solely an avenue for commerce. But now, local people see it again for what it is: a river of life and spirit that needs to be seen, needs to be experienced, needs to be treasured and loved.


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