River, mountains, cliffs, and caves. I find myself surrounded by these elements of the earth; the most primordial elements. We are 70% water. Vast oceans, great seas, and mighty rivers coat the lands we choose to abuse. Be your own judge, but we are trapped in a machine that we cannot escape – civilization. That machine exists in its own right and own world inside its hard, discriminating shell; a shell that keeps us from escaping. The concept of ‘love it or leave it’ does not apply. It’s more of an inability to break from conformity.
Ah, the sun finally comes out from behind a cliff and for the first time this morning I feel warmth. It soothes me, but could it rain today? It is cloudy for the first time this trip. Wouldn’t that be something, canoeing in the rain?
The machine of civilization is just as selfish as the humans within it. It operates on a process that’s similar to the physiology of digestion: delicious, nutritious foods are consumed only to leave behind a stinky, toxic mess. The machine takes nature’s goods and in exchange blows smoke right back in its face. How rude, how disrespectful! Nature has a plan though. She is a patient nurturer, and she operates strictly on cause and effect. Nature is slow. It carves and cares for the world on a time scale of millions, while we can be hopeful to reach one hundred. She knows that if we’re not nice to her now, she has plenty of time to kick our ass later.
I love the sound of the rapids, sitting here, taking it all in. We are about to embark on a 16 mile rafting course. The day will be long, frustrating, tiring, and rewarding – the hallmarks of a good adventure. I sit here and ponder, think and reflect, curse and enjoy, perpetually being drawn into the wonder and harmony of the natural being.
Musings from a nine day, 65 mile white-water canoeing trip on the Rio Grande
What are boundaries? How do you define borders, in the physical sense? What does it mean to be on a river, floating between what we know as one and another? A river that divides two countries on paper, but in this vast desert only divides a piece of land? A river that has two names? The Rio Grande, or the Rio Bravo? I do not see any disparity here. I do not see black or white. Only one reality is found out here. My eyes are fixed; transfixed by a calm, blue river, weaving a path through an arid landscape, reflecting the golden hues of towering, complementary canyons on either side.
Nature always has a way of putting humanity in perspective. These rocks, these cliffs, and this mighty river were all here long before our evolutionary ancestors roamed the earth. The river has existed for millions of years. The rocks were here then – they have slightly changed – but they are still here today. The rocks remind me of what truly “matters” and what we often overlook as we go about our daily life. There are larger forces at play here, and these cliffs, nature’s rising monuments, will remain long after we all perish.
It’s dawn and the sun is barely peeking over the canyons in the distance. I look down the tranquil river and I’m stunned by a brilliant reflection. The ridges are carved right as they are left. The sound is the same on the north bank as it is on the south bank. I see only one blue sky above me, and only one sun warming me up. Sticks, rocks, and carcasses find their way from one side of the bank to the other, taking thousands of years of river power or calmly floating in a days time.
So tell me, what do borders mean when you are surrounded by this great, harmonizing energy? Why the disparity, when really all is one and one is all in the end? The canvas of nature will always trump whatever painting we coat it with.
March 2009 (updated January 2011)