WHERE THE RIVER ENDS
High up on the north facing slope of the mountain a tiny rivulet appears from the rock face and slowly begins to flow down the slope. Along the way it disappears into the gravel only to reappear further down the mountain. Its flow is cold and clear; sterile in its purity, yet full of promise. Other small trickles join with the flow and by the time it reaches the high meadows filled with wildflowers it has grown into a modest stream. Still small it has power; power to cut a channel across the meadow, twisting and turning with a certain singularity that is ever changing from season to season. Leaving the high meadow, it plunges over the edge plunging through a rocky gorge, downward ever downward toward the valley below. In the next meadow a beaver dam momentarily stills its flow. No longer sterile, the water teems with life and it spreads out like a luxurious blanket forming a small high mountain lake. Seeping through spaces in the dam the stream continues its unrelenting push toward the broad valley below.
Water is the lubricant that oils the wheels of life. Without it we would not only have all the luxuriant life forms that we enjoy; we would not have life as we know it. Viewed from space earth is the blue planet, thanks to water.
Now the little rivulet has become a significant stream tumbling down a timber lined canyon flowing swiftly toward the broad valley. In the pockets, behind the rocks, fish are seeking shelter from the current, darting out occasionally to snatch a morsel of food. These fish are trout; native cutthroat and brook trout, mixed together in this wild rush of water. They thrive here in this cold, clear water, unfazed by its cold temperatures and furious rushing rapids. Rock-encased caddis larvae cling to the rocks and flat, sprawling mayfly nymphs hide beneath the stones, venturing out to feed on the thin coating of algae on their surface and bold stonefly nymphs stalk the shadows between the stones.
The stream tumbles out of the canyon and flows out into a broad valley. Joining with other streams it becomes a river carving its way through the loamy valley soil. Now there are other fish; bottom dwelling suckers, sleek silvery whitefish and trout; browns, rainbows and cutthroats. The water is alive with an abundance of insects, the meadows that line the stream are teeming with terrestrial insects; ants, grasshoppers and an endless variety of insects hopping, crawling and flying.
Lost in this vast flow our tiny rivulet has reached full maturity. It carried down from the mountain heights minerals, organic matter and cold clear water that have all come together to create a perfect environment for a plethora of life. I stand waist deep in the flow in my neoprene waders and still I can feel the cold. Mayflies ride the surface of the flow and trout appear feed on the abundance of insect life. Occasionally one of those feeding trout mistakes my imitation for a real insect and for a moment in time I make a temporal connection with all the events that have gone into producing this place.
More streams join the flow and the character of the stream begins to change. It begins to slow and warm. Its crystal-clear flow becomes clouded with silt and algae; the little rivulet that started so high up in the mountains, clear and cold has lost its identity. Onward it flows until it’s lost in the vastness of the great ocean.
Somewhere over this vast expanse a cloud forms, made up of the molecules of water from that tiny rivulet far up in the distant mountains. Slowly it builds and drifts closer and closer to the land. Soon it is pushed up, higher and higher and then in a sudden burst rain begins to fall upon the top of the mountain. High up on the north facing slope of the mountain a tiny rivulet appears from the rock face and slowly begins to flow down the slope.
“All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again”.