When I sit down to write, I very rarely know what I am going to say. There are just words bubbling beneath the surface that need to come out, but they need a focus. So, before I start typing, I pull out my phone and scroll through my pictures. Some days I take a lot of pictures; some days I don’t take any. When I am writing my blogs, the picture almost always comes first, which is why I lead with a picture on every post.
Today, I was flipping through the pictures on my phone, trying to find my focus, when I came across this picture of a stream. This particular stream is Angelica Creek as it is entering Angelica Park in Reading, PA, but, in my mind, it could be any stream, anywhere. I don’t mean to imply that I believe all streams are interchangeable, far from it; every stream is unique with its own characteristics brought on by complex variables, such as the terrain that they pass over, the climate of the area, the elevation, and any number of other things.
I say it can be any stream because when I look at it, I am not looking at Angelica Creek; I am looking at every stream I have ever seen. The magic of moving water is that it can take you anywhere. All water is connected. It has come from somewhere else, and its existence in this place is fleeting; blink your eyes and you are looking at new water with new experiences, a new history.
When I look at a stream, I see Palisades Creek, cold and crisp, boiling down the rough rocky mountain canyon to pool at the base of a giant boulder, swirling and churning. The stream where a boy caught his first “sixteen-incher,” an arbitrary classification of where a fish goes from just another catch to one worthy of its own story.
I see Big Elk Creek, meandering through the low meadows before it spills into the reservoir; its steep dirt banks where a young man paddled a canoe with fast friends during summer camp. I see Pass Creek, where he played with his siblings on fallen logs, creating a world and a mythos that existed only in their minds for a single afternoon.
I see Burnt Creek where it flows through copper basin with its fallen logs and abandoned cabins, with its unfulfilled promises of young love. I see Fall Creek’s pluming waterfalls cascading into the Snake River where two young hearts dared to imagine a future where they were never apart. I see Teton Creek where they soaked their feet after a grueling honeymoon hike. I see Clamatis Creek feeding the steaming waters of Mammoth Hot Springs on their first anniversary.
I see the Uncompahgre River, a generous name for a trickle of water winding through the desert of western Colorado, creating a green strip of park where someone placed a disc golf course. I see the Gunnison River’s marshy alpine banks where they picnicked together while escaping the cruel summer heat of the desert far below.
I see Buckhorn’s calm waters where he grieved for his grandfather in solitude.
I hear the babbling of Summit Creek as it tumbles over the rocks of Mack Park, echoing the laughter of a little girl with fire for hair. I see the raging torrent of the unnamed creek as it tries to keep up with men on mountain bikes as they tear down Green Canyon. I see the intermittent flow of High Creek, where bears traveled in herds and memories were made. I see the peaceful flow of Tulpehocken Creek as it lazily winds through the hills of Pennsylvania while a happy couple walk, hand in hand, and a young woman with fire for hair laughs beside them.
I see these streams and so many more when I look at this picture. This stream is not those streams; those streams exist only in my memory. Tomorrow, I can go to the same spot, stand in the same place and take another picture, but it will be a completely different stream. The water does not wait for us; it continues its cycle. A second after I took this picture, every drop of water had changed.
Words are the same. I can sit down tomorrow and look at the same picture and completely different words will come to me. I love to write, but the words, like the stream, depend on the environment where they are formed. Some days they flow fast with purpose and direction. Some days they pool and swirl with depth and meaning. Some days they babble and chuckle with humor. Some days they flow through light meadows; others through dark canyons. Today, I wrote this, and tomorrow? Well, tomorrow’s stream is a mystery yet to be revealed.
by: Tim Kiester with extensive grammatical edits provided by Laura Nelson (check out her blog; she is hilarious).