The fist-size rock hit the middle of the shallow Lewis and Clark River and the sound it made was kerplunk.
I’d never heard an actual kerplunk before and I liked the sound. It was deep and low and with a hint of gurgle.
Bonnie and Clyde came over to investigate the sound.
I picked up another rock, tossed it high into the air, and watched it splash into the river. Kerplunk. I tossed another: Kerplunk. I threw three rocks at the same time and her a triple Kerplunk. I underhanded the largest rock I could pick find. Kerplunk. I was kerplunking the hell out of the river and I had no idea why.
At one point in the madness, Bonnie and Clyde started barking. Kerplunks and barks resounded up and down and the river and produced the most pleasing cacophony.
The rock show ended and I noticed ripples rippling out from the last kerplunk. I had never noticed ripples in an Oregon river before.
They were beautiful. They were concentric stanzas of a perfect poem that drifted with the current and then disappeared. I knew there was perfect math in the ripples, too, but my brain couldn’t fathom the sine curves and amplitudes and equations of it all. Perhaps in another lifetime, I would return as a math teacher who taught the math of the watery universe through ripples in a river. My classes would march down to a river and toss rocks into it for their final. In this other math teaching lifetime, I might even double as the creative writing teacher and introduce mathematical concepts into love stories and have students write about the unknown variables in their lives.
I picked up a rock and tossed it into the river. Then another, another. Ripples formed and then disappeared. I pitched three rocks in at the same time. Three separate ripples rippled into and out of one another. It was a ripple party.
Something broke the spell and my mind rippled toward perhaps my favorite poem of all time, “We are Transmitters” by DH Lawrence:
A stanza reads:
And if, as we work, we can transmit life into our work,
life, still more life, rushes into us to compensate, to be ready
and we ripple with life through the days.
Even if it is a woman making an apple dumpling, or a man a stool,
if life goes into the pudding, good is the pudding
good is the stool,
content is the woman, with fresh life rippling in to her,
content is the man.
I taught this poem to my creative writing students for years. In fact, I invented a one-period writing workshop around it. One of the prompts was: how will you ripple through the years? Another was: what is your rock that creates the ripple? Some of their rocks included: my music, my belief in God, my friendship, my love of animals. One student wrote his serenity would ripple through his family’s chaos and smooth it over.
Clyde moseyed over to hustle a treat. I pitched one in the water and it generated a tiny kerplunk and ripple. Clyde’s body generated much larger ones.
I closed my eyes and tossed another rock, a final one for the morning. I winged it high into the sky, way upriver. I asked myself: how will I ripple through the rest of my years? The old ripple is gone forever. Good. I also asked: what will be the new rock to create the new ripple? How will I even find it?
Kerplunk! I heard.
I waited for a few seconds and opened my eyes.
The ripple was coming my way.
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