At the River Clarion

I’ve been back a month now, from my writing time in Northern New Mexico. It was a time of daily plumbing the depths of my own fears, imaginations, enthusiasms, loneliness and creativity.

I remember the colorful cabin with great fondness—it’s only heat source a fireplace. At times I missed the ease of flipping a thermostat. But I developed new muscles and an interior discipline. Every day I arose to tote, stack and build that pile of wood into a fire, often in single digit temps outside.

When my car battery died. The only thing I accomplished that day was securing a tow, scheduling a service station in town(no easy feat in a pandemic) and driving with the tow truck driver to wait for hours while the battery was installed. The sun was setting low on the horizon, when I finally drove back across the mountain.

Groceries were over 40 miles away, along a narrow winding mountain road. I made the trek twice a month—often on snowy roads.

Those months remain in my memory as a magnificent time on so many levels— as well as challenging. But challenge seems to be the theme for 2020-21. Conditions that dredge up unseen strengths, ingenuity and skills that our conscious, comfort driven minds and bodies usually evade.

Now that I am back in the city, somedays life becomes clouded by the exhaustion of ease. I lose track of my hours, they wane with endless minutiae. The clarity of each precious moment, so chock full of meaning and purpose, has been reduced at times to the rubble of tedium. I remember the fire, not only of the stove that kept me warm, but the warm lapping heat of my imagination as I sat by her dancing flames. So satisfying.

I will always long for those times away —to purify and clarify my imagination. The stillness. The unbroken wholeness of time. There is power in diving the deep waters of the soul. You can sink to the bottom, then push off, your breath bursting as you break the surface. Float on your back for a time, unaccosted. See what rises to the surface, bubbling up from places you didn’t even know exist!

You can go there for a few hours. A day. A week. Months.

Mary Oliver speaks of the River Clarion, the singing waters and life of the river stones and mosses. Those times set apart become a clarion call. A holiness. A singing. A river.

I don’t know who God is exactly.

But I’ll tell you this.

I was sitting in the river named Clarion, on a water splashed stone

and all afternoon I listened to the voices of the river talking.

Whenever the water struck a stone it had something to say,

and the water itself, and even the mosses trailing under the water.

And slowly, very slowly, it became clear to me what they were saying.

Said the river I am part of holiness.

And I too, said the stone. And I too, whispered the moss beneath the water.

I’d been to the river before, a few times.

Don’t blame the river that nothing happened quickly.

You don’t hear such voices in an hour or a day.

You don’t hear them at all if selfhood has stuffed your ears.

And it’s difficult to hear anything anyway, through all the traffic, the ambition.

and still pressed deep into my mind, the river

keeps coming, touching me, passing by

on it’s long journey, its pale, infallible voice


Mary Oliver

3 thoughts on “At the River Clarion

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