The first family activity my wife and I participated in after marriage was canoeing. We got a little fiberglass canoe called a Papoose, which gave me my first involuntary cold spring swim in the Brandywine Creek, in Northern Delaware. We never really had the time to develop a bond with paddling, and it was just a couple years before we began to look at larger waters that had horizons instead of banks and tree lines. That lead to sailing. We spent four decades sailing together, and I coined a phrase that I used often, and meant…”Breathing is the only thing better than sailing, but neither is of much worth without the other.” On bays, gulfs, sounds, oceans, and rivers, we logged 117,536.3 nautical miles under sail before one of life’s twists ran us hard and inexorably aground on the red dirt and rocks of Oklahoma. A return to the paddle and canoe was the only way to get back to water. There is nothing in life that exists without water. I don’t just mean to drink, but the soul can’t live without water. At least if I have one, mine certainly can’t.
I once had a minister inform me that there is no water in heaven, no rivers, bays, nothing. The only mention of a heavenly river in the Bible is Revelations 22:1, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the Throne of God and of the Lamb.“ Well, that’s metaphorical. You can’t paddle a boat in a metaphor. What a bombshell. What’s heavenly about a heaven with no water? My immediate come back was, “Do they have shovels?“ Being met with a blank look, I elaborated. “I mean, if I have eternity and no physical ailment or pain, heck, I’ll dig my own bay.“ Even hell has rivers: the Rivers Acheron, Cocytus, Phlegethon, Lethe, and Styx. They are the rivers of woe, lamentation, fire, forgetfulness, and hate. They don’t sound all that exciting, but maybe they’re just metaphorical as well. So it seems we need to concentrate on between now and then, because you can’t enjoy anything without water. If you don’t believe me, ask any artist worth his or her salt, and they will agree that they seek water in their subject, or paint water into their pictures. They will even paint a dry landscape, and then with artistic license, add a river or lake where none exists in reality, just to give the painting more beauty, more feeling, even more soul. Or, ask the developers and city commissioners in Oklahoma City that keep building artificial waterways in the city, and canals for riverboat rides, and then steal water from upstream lakes to fill their artificial waterways, like a Disneyland mirage. It’s kind of a selfish, greedy use of water, to deprive others of its use just to adorn their own surroundings with it, but at least they demonstrate the absolute necessity of adding water to augment the beauty of anything, including life.
In our search for a river to enjoy in that ‘between now and then’, we’re planning a paddle in Wisconsin this summer on the St. Croix Scenic River and Mississippi River. If you want to visit the beauty of a river and the nature that surrounds it, switch to full screen and watch this 18-min. video.