Another year of life is coming to an end.
April 9, 2014
A VG Serial: Hills of Eden
Can you ever get to know a creek? Perhaps not, because there is a complexity to even the smallest stream that is beyond full comprehension. Rather, we can only hope to capture impressions, for in each stream, each tiny droplet of water, there is a universe as vast and incomprehensible as the one that expands through the heavens, as far as we can see and farther than we can see or even imagine.
So it is with Osage Creek in Arkansas. If we viewed a painting of the part of it that was near our 80-acre homestead, we might see only a silver ribbon that represents reflected light, a hieroglyphic scrawl without much meaning. Imagine millions of tiny mirrors, each reflecting not only light from the sky, but from each other, and you can see a uniformity that does not exist except at a distance. This is like looking at the stars in the night sky from a position on earth. We see quiet, static pinpoints of light. If we were to travel very fast through space and observe the individual stars, we would see them much differently. We would see matter in motion, clouds of dust and particles forming shapes and objects, all of varying hues and sizes. So, too, if we walk to the creek and look at it closely, even a tiny part of it, we see that autumn has painted much more of it, given it richer colors from the leaves that have turned and leaned over its banks.
We can see the ripples daubed in umber, vermilion, burnt ochre, a flicker of chrome yellow, and even splashes of viridian and brown and white. And, we can see the light from the sky mingled in its waters, even catch the glimmer of cobalt in its murky depths as if the painter’s palette had been dropped in the creek and its colors wafted off in an ever-expanding breadth. In the clear, smooth stretches, we can see the bottom, with its pebbles and sand ground to a fine powder and imagine that there are Osage arrowheads buried and worn smooth by the centuries.
If you stand on the bank very still for a long while, and listen closely, you can hear the music, the water music the creek makes as it slips and slides and stumbles over its ancient bed, swishes against the curves in the banks, the small bends, and emerges on the straight stretches constantly mixing itself with a sloshing and energetic exchange of molecules, atoms, and memories like some sentient thing with a mind of its own.
The music is very nearly an indescribable sound, because it is the very harmony of the universe and its chords are plucked by the wind and the breezes and its chromatic scale attuned to its lazy course between the banks and over its pebbled and sand-strewn bottom.
On its lazy course to the King’s River, does the creek dream of the ocean far away, or the Arkansas swelling with creek waters all the way back to the Rocky Mountains and down to the Gulf of Mexico? Does it know that the sky will take some of its waters and create the cottony white clouds that float across the sky like galleons from another dimension? Does the creek dream and feel, or is it only ourselves who impart consciousness to a mindless fluid that has no thought, no memory, no purpose except to flow?
These are questions only a close observer may ask and they have no answer in the logical coils and circuits of the brain, but only in the secret and mysterious compartments of the human heart. These are questions a painter or a poet asks when time and place are lost while looking into the creek, mesmerized or hypnotized by its energy and motion on an autumn afternoon when the Ozarks hills are gaudy with the vibrant colors of leaves of oaks and sumacs have lost their green and turned golden and crimson for a brief moment in time.
Osage Creek in autumn, like all creeks that thread through these Ozarks hills, seems to be like a pulsing vein as it carries off the falling dead leaves, remaining as a life-force beneath the stark winter trees, offering nourishment for the new leaves that will sprout in the spring.
I have waded in Osage Creek along this small stretch about two miles from the town of Osage, caught fighting small mouth bass on little glittering spinners. After a rain, arrowheads protrude from the soil above the banks, and as the creek meanders away from this quiet place, it deepens. In the depths, I have caught catfish at night with a campfire blazing for light and warmth as the autumn chill descends.
But, it’s that small stretch of creek that enhances autumn for me each year. One doesn’t need all of a creek to know it’s there and to appreciate it. Here, I know I will see the dancing mirrors shooting brilliant light in all directions, and see tiny rainbow prisms in the spray when the afternoon sun slants through the trees and leaves.
And, here, too, each autumn, I can feel the sadness of another year of life coming to an end, and see, in the shadows of the running waters, the portent of evening and winter and the long dark hush of night. After the sun falls, the deer will come to this autumn creek to drink, and after they leave, other creatures will sip from its banks and leave no trace of their presence or visit.
Just as I have done so many times over the years on this very creek, so small and so fragile right here, so shallow and seemingly insignificant. But, I know it has come a long way to reach this place, and will journey even farther beyond it.
And, so, have I, and, so, perhaps, have we all.
Hills of Eden will be published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Please click the title, Hills of Eden, to read more about Jory Sherman and his books.