(or Rivanna, Part 2)
I am a man now, thirty something, and far from innocent, but my desires at least have grown more comfortable, their barbs crimped by conflict and compromise. I bristle still at boundaries, but their effrontery is less personal and I’ve long since learned to circumvent the ones that I can’t tolerate. Such evasion has pushed me farther and farther from the dense development of the eastern seaboard, farther and farther from the headwaters of my people and of the Rivanna. I found a keen culpability than, returning a prodigal son come to bear witness to his father’s death.
Alone and with family I stood vigil beside suffering and decline, shouldering what I could and surrendering the balance. Cornered by loss, one casts about for escape and, being no exception, I regressed to old habits. Thumbing through my water stained gazetteer looking for a time machine, I found instead an unremarkable blue squiggle, fixed to the page, measured and labeled like a vein in a dissection tray, impossibly small and lifeless. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Time heals all wounds. The clichés are myriad and hollow. It was clear from Dad’s bedside what’s lost to distance and the decay that grows with time. Grief will not be evaded, nor will conscience. The mountain was moving.
An unexpected vista is awesome and terrifying. I can no longer see things as I wish them. A father now myself, I must meet the world as it is. At six weeks Everett’s desires are uncomplicated and easily met, but they will grow with him. What will I provide? My guide has gone, and he leaves no map. I have followed his trail and it has led me ever forward, confident and secure, but here it ends and amid thicket and vine I am left wondering. Can I blaze a trail so sure? I don’t know. Dad would push forward though. So I gather his tools to me – the primacy of family, the value of hard work, the golden rule – and step into the current. Everett will need a clear path and I aim to provide it. He’ll need boundaries too. And of course he’ll need a river.
* * *
On the way to the airport I parked the rental beside the bridge and watched her from afar. In mid June the Rivanna lay languid in lacy green. I wondered if her magic had weathered commerce’s latest insults, if she still held salve, and if she still shared life. I wondered too if having been with rivers less tired and more beautiful than she, and having danced with fish more graceful than hers she would still have me. I can’t say why, but I believe that she does and that she would. In the end, that will have to be enough.