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Dispatch from the Edge

By Peter Anderson

Row, row, row your boat. Row it because El Rio is running high with water that has just come down off the mountain and your friends want to take their little boy on his first float; row it so he feels the waves as they push up against the floor of the raft, so that a small wave over the bow will surprise him—yes, this river still remembers the high snowfields; row it so he can see how the river gives itself away, parting ways around an island, then gathering itself up into swirls and eddies on the far side; row it because even in a bulky craft like this, you may feel, for a moment, like a water strider gliding across the current; row it so that he will see the merganser floating along beside the boat before she paddles into lift-off and flies downstream; row it for his smile as she takes flight.

Gently down the stream. It is good to float and drift and let the river guide you. Let it tell you where you need to be. Let it slide you across the riffles and around the pillow of water above a submerged boulder. Yes this river can rock—last week you rode the big waves in that narrow whitewater canyon upstream—but here it rolls like an up-tempo bossa nova. Let it remind you that there is no need to hurry, just a little dip of the oar here and there, so that you are moving with most of the current, which will deliver you in due time to your destination a few miles downstream.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily. Because on a day like today, as the old rat told his Wind-in-the-Willow friends, “there is nothing … half so much worth doing as messing about in boats.” The river carries you for free—oooh-whee, ride me high—and your blue boat glides though sun-splash and refracted sky. Gravity invites you to hitch a ride for as long as you want, and you think, why not, let’s roll all the way to the delta where the ocean has been waiting for the river: “It’s about time you came home.” Here now on this boat, both mother and father are attentive to their little boy and whatever his floating reveries may be.   

Life is but a dream. You arrive at the takeout much sooner than expected and you are barely able to catch the eddy. Now you pull your boat onto the shore, sit under the shade of a willow, and look back at the river that has delivered you to this grassy oasis where the little boy’s mom is preparing lunch. What will her two year-old remember from this day? What is he thinking now as you sit on the boat and look back up the river? Someday, maybe he will find out that you can hear the river anywhere if you cup your hands over your ears. The river runs through us. Today you tap, tap, tap, the tip of the oar on the bow of the blue raft, keeping time as you teach him, in call-and-response mode, a song you learned a long time ago:

Row, row, row, your boat …


Gently down the stream.


Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Merrily.


Life is but a dream.


Right now, this is the only song that matters.

Peter Anderson recently retired from teaching in order to become a full-time word wrangler. He lives in Crestone.