The Selway River swallowed an Ouzel as we arrived. The bird slipped simply – I saw its twisting form dive head-first, its side turning up, then disappearing quickly – beneath the water, which revealed only a crease in its surface. The eight-inch slit made by the Ouzel dissipated in the flow. Is the elegance of river water in the flow – in its mannered folding, the flattening, and resumption of form?
We sat for lunch among the boulders and cobbles of flood plain. When had I arrived, a rattlesnake buzzed under my steps. The snake emerged from the stones to sit under a straggling shrub. It watched us. After lunch, I went to sit beside the river. I watched the rifts in the flow – where the water had edges. The edges had spines that rode the current like a snake. Sinuous motion. Shallow curves along the rifting edge led forward. The edge moved, yet it had the stillness of the watching snake.
That shatter and clatter of falling gemstones in the breaking white water of rapids was not elegant. It was exhilarating. The awe of rapids was the force of the river. Fast and confusing places, constricted, rumpled by stones from a side creek, they were a loud party. Everything was for show.
The flat water had blue eyes. Where the channel was wide, where a point bar calmed the current and opposite there were cedar and pine at the edge of the bank, the water was like a forehead, like broad cheek bones, like a face. When we looked into that face we saw its smooth contours. Saw the ellipses of blue eyes. Quiet gazes.
The water curved. This was not a bend in the channel, not the natural S-form of a gently falling river. I looked across the surface of the water. It was bowed. The water flowed like an exposed thigh. It had that broad curve. The light lay brightly on the skin of the water. I reached out.