Sunday, October 08, 2006


When I saw the glassy surface of the river, the warm red light from the evening sun, and the deepening color in the trees, it came to me that I should write about reflections this evening. And of course, it was only a matter of minutes before I found myself singing the Supremes' song and getting stuck on the philosophical irony in the line "...reflections of, the way life used to be...". The reflection is of the present, not the past. The way life used to be is the way it is now, the way it was in ages past, and the way that it will continue to be. Sure, we have changed the means by which we interact with our world, but the substance of the interactions is still the same. We spend many hours engaged in a struggle and look desperately in the corners to find brief moments of real joy. Time will distort our recollection of the personal past, but the reflection continues to be of the present. When we were children, things were not different, we simply perceived a difference because our experience was much more innocent. Melancholy nostalgia, something toward which I gravitate often and heavily, is an illusion. The reality of those previous experiences of many days or years ago is very similar to the reality of this moment. The reflection is doing its best to give us a stark look at reality.

My mind wandered as I floated downriver and photographed the colors and the patterns in the ripples of water. My mentor, Sigurd Olson, came to mind as did his wonderful reflections of the many years he spent in the wilderness of the Quetico-Superior region which he helped to preserve. Olson wrote as though his pen were a paddle and each movement was pulling him forward to some clear, decisive, and simple destination. His ideology was based upon reflection; a deep contemplative turning of ideas and opinions which made their way into each vignette he crafted about his world. I never met Sigurd Olson, yet I have paddled right alongside him in New Hampshire, Maine, Ontario, Quebec, Connecticut, Vermont and, most importantly, in my imagination where kindred spirits find their strongest bonds. I think of all the canoe partners and fellow voyaguers with whom I have had the joy of seeing water's reflections of mood and spirit and smile. Paula, Heidi, Gabe, Kern, Lem, Dan, Jeff, Anna, Anne, Lizzie, Alexa, and many others, have kept me company in the corners where I find joy.

Try this sometime. On a calm clear day when you are standing at water's edge and the still surface reflects the landscape with surreal precision, turn and put your back to the water, bend over and gaze at the surface of the water with your head up-side-down looking between your legs. I was pleasantly stunned by the deception of mind that this little "trick" plays. Enjoy it if you get the chance!!

A haiku:

Reflecting water
Is a home for my journey.
I am never lost.

I am fascinated by the distortions of the reflections more than the perfection of the still water.

1 comment:

MQM said...

Thanks, Bill - for taking us with you - or at least bringing it back to share with us. The quiet beauty of the surroundings comes through in your writing. Keep going.