No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.
“By the time it came to the edge of the forest, the stream had grown up, so that it was almost a river, and being grown up, it did not run and jump and sparkle along as it used to do when it was younger, but moved more slowly for it now knew where it was going, and it said to itself, “There is no hurry. We shall get there someday”. But all the little streams higher up in the forest went this way and that, quickly, eagerly, having so much to find out before it was too late.” AA Milne.
At the edge of Big Wood, I stood on the riverbank, gazing down into the water of the Clywedog. Recent rainfall had made it deeper and faster than usual.
A flowing river speaks to me about the journey of life. At its origin, the river is small and insignificant compared to what it is to become. Who would believe looking at the Clywedog now, or the Dee which the Clywedog flows into further on, that their source is a tiny trickle that you could step over?
From its humble origins, the river begins a journey of challenge and excitement. Each drop of water that bubbles forth at its source knows not what lies ahead. But from the moment it emerges, it becomes part of an inevitable, uncontrollable flow that leads it forward. Its whole life lies before it, and it begins a journey that will take it through various stages and directions of its life.
An individual drop of water cannot flow by itself. For it to flourish and survive it needs other drops of water to join it on its journey. It needs to be fed by rain that falls from the sky. Encounters with other streams allow it to be nourished and grow. Every chance meeting contributes to its growth and maturity as a river. Just as it cannot reach its destiny without receiving from others, it gives as well as takes. It enriches the land and crops; it gives life to fish, amphibians, birds and humans.
Despite its power, kindness and generosity, its flow is not without difficulties. No river ever flows straight to the sea. It meets obstacles, diversions, challenges. Heavy rain might cause it to rush and roar ahead along a narrow channel, a long hot summer might rob it of its resources and take it back to a trickle.
Its mood alters with its circumstances. There are times for rushing ahead and times for peacefully trickling along just trying to survive.
It meets obstacles – the fallen tree it has to negotiate, or the rockfall that means a change in course.
In its infancy, the river is joyful and dancing, in its adolescence more purposeful. In maturity, it broadens and shares its experience and wisdom.
Its pace slows as it continues its journey to the sea. On meeting, they become one, not just with each other but with all the other rivers and waters on the planet. The warmth of the sun evaporates the water. It gathers in the clouds, is deposited back in the hills, and so the journey of another river begins.
The river gives us a sense of permanence, a feeling of eternity that would outlive our mere fleeting existence. But in its permanence, there is also something temporary. The river is constantly changing, adapting, the molecules of water constantly changing.
The river begins at Source, and returns to Source, unerringly. This happens every single time, without exception.
We are no different.
It is the rivers constant, ever-changing nature that makes it a classic metaphor for all of life’s journeys.
‘Go with the Flow’ is the foundation of River Philosophy.
You drown not by falling into a river, but by staying submerged in it. Paulo Coelho.
In the water, the current determines what is needed from us at any given time. When approaching a rapid, the river demands our attention, forces us to plan our route, to prepare for change and have the physical strength to keep our course. When the water is still, we are allowed to rest and enjoy the scenery or prepare for the next rapid. No amount of wishing, fighting, crying or demanding will change the river’s current. We must accept it for what it is, choose our course and do our best.
The river is constantly turning and bending and you never know where it's going to go and where you'll wind up. Following the bend in the river and staying on your own path means that you are on the right track. Don't let anyone deter you from that. Eartha Kitt.