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Go Down to the River

Updated: Jan 30, 2022

If I push the blankets off, leave my bed, and walk out the bedroom door it's just 15 paces to the hearth. From there it's 10 paces out either door and into the great beyond. The center of the house is a butter yellow living room and a compass of possibility in all cardinal directions. I wake to the smell of bacon cooking in an old cast iron skillet and dogs barking to be let out. Black coffee helps me ease into the procession when I finally walk out onto the porch. This is a good and necessary ritual because a seat on the porch allows for a full view of the river. The river is the presence and the constant and ancient life force of the place. Primordial waves of brown and blue water churning up rocks and sea glass and discarded shells. The river does not belong to the property. The people belong to the river. It is a continuation of the Potomac, about a mile-wide stretch of water that dips down in a slope off the back of the house. If a sailboat departs from the dock to find the parallel shore you will lose the boat in your sightline. The boat will shrink as it bobs up and down on the current and then the great sail vanishes at the very last - just a small speck on the horizon. Sound carries just as fast over the water with surprising amplification. The voices of the people on the dock accelerate off the surface of the water. Their sound rebounding faster, energized by the water molecules. Waves on top of waves. For this reason, secrets should not be told on the boat dock. Whispers from the water's edge reach the porch in moments. That is, unless the thrash of a heavy wind acts as an ally. Sometimes the water is as smooth as mirrored glass. Other days a nor'easter pushes the water out of the river causing a blowout kind of low tide. When the wind kicks up like that the birds on the water look like fighter pilots making emergency landings on the waves and the wind opens the screen door on the porch. As if the spirit of an ancestor is returning home; the back door floats open wide enough for a person to pass and then closes when the wind releases and I wait for silent footfalls on the porch planks. I keep thinking that one of the old sailors captured in the black and white photos on the wall is coming back for a visit. I imagine the salty ghost sailor siting down and lighting a pipe. Puffing on it a few times only to adjust his cap and look at me and ask "Who the Hell are you?" This is not my home of ancestry. I am just a visitor. But I do my best to care for the place in the hopes of being accepted by the generations past and present. I dust the old books and sweep the stairs and polish the old table that Great Uncle Chester brought back from Asia. All gestures offered in good faith. All blessings sent to water and to wind. I finish my coffee and look out on the water once again. I imagine the ghost sailor returning his pipe to his pocket and adjusting his coat. Standing, he tips his hat with the smile of a thousand horizons and sunsets. He steps onto the breach and into a certain morning. I whisper a prayer out over the water. The words I know will carry. All that is rendered here will keep moving.

Downriver to the Potomac

Further through the Chesapeake

Emptying into the expanse of the Atlantic.

And then out into Forever.

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