I live above a bend in Oregon’s Willamette River; from my front window I can see the long stretch of river where two eagles have nested in the tall trees for a decades, and then the slow leisurely bend where the river sails past parallel to the house.
The Willamette is not especially friendly in the winter: it’s a wide, turgid river that runs very fast and high in the fall, winter and spring.
But in the summer, when the river is gentle and the sun is warm, the Willamette becomes home to to canoeists, kayakers, the occasssional skidoo, and sometimes plucky inner tubers.
What’s interesting to notice, is that what I see from my vantage point, is not at all what it feels like to be on the river, on a lazy summer day.
When you view the river from above, it’s flat and serene: a plane of reflection that mirrors the evergreens and maples along the shore. On the water, the boaters or inner tubers look like tiny black spots, like logs or branches in the water, and you can see that they’re making good time, flowing swiftly downstream.
When you’re on the river, however, it’s a whole different experience. For one thing, there are the birds: hawks and osprey and eagles soaring over like it’s a bird highway, swooping down for fish, and often fighting each other for the catch mid air.
On the river, the banks are wide: head out to the middle, away from the brackish underground trees and roots, and you realize how wide the river really is, and how fast the current is going.
In a canoe, it’s wobbly and precarious. In a kayak, fairly exhilarating. But in an inner tube, there is both the sense of vulnerability, and the cognizance that without a paddle or other way of pushing down stream, you’re going to be on the water a long, long time.
When you look with binoculars on the river, you can see that most inner tubists come prepared: hats, sunscreen, snacks, beer. They’re in for the duration… a long, lazy after noon of four or six hours on the water.
The discrepancy: of what it looks like from above, and what it looks like on the water, is striking.
IT’s the same way the Universe might see us, the big picture of this human life, moving all so quickly in the Flow. Whereas for us, with our drama and our emotion and the moment to moment of daily life, it appears like time is moving so slowly, like we have all the time in the world.
We’re on the river, birth to death. The thing is: from one perspective, we disappear 'round the bend in the blink of the eye. From another perspective, we're right there in the water, legs dangling in the current, eagles overhead, lazing down the river with all the time we could ever need.
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