River Currents

I hear dogs in the distance, playing with one another, roughhousing. It’s a wonderful sound. I need it on cassette tape.

The river rolls green and brown and laden with wood: sticks, branches, firewood, docks, root wads, trees. Heavy rain is the reason for the color and conveyance.

I sit at a tilted picnic table covered in moss. I sit between a giant Doug fir and black cottonwood in a state park.

A mansion stands in the woods across the river. Who lives there? Who loves there? I have never met anyone who lives in a mansion.

I am doing the assignment I always gave my students when I taught Siddhartha: go to a river, watch it and write. Write with the current. Everyone got “A’s” on that assignment. How could you fail?

A frog croaks below me.

The amount of wood floating past is astonishing. It all flows to the Columbia River and out to the ocean. In a few years, I might be building a driftwood fort with some of this wood.

Two black dogs approach. Their two elderly owner follow close behind. One of the dogs hustles down the bank and returns with an empty energy drink can. The dog releases it at my feet. I pick up the can and throw it football style. The dog brings it back. He then crushes the can with his paw—10 cents! The two owners come up and we launch into a conversation about the astonishing amount of driftwood in the river. We talk for 15 minutes about driftwood! Talking about driftwood is fun!

The dogs and men continue their walk. I hear the dog crushing another can.

I look down to the river. I want to see a damn beaver!

This would be an excellent spot to write a chapter of the watershed novel. This river is part of that novel. All rivers in the Pacific Northwest that drain the Columbia River Watershed are part of this novel.

I write a while longer and then walk back to the car. I pass a man in his 30s parked in a $50k silver truck, parked in such a way that he can watch the river and not get out of the truck. He is watching the river from his cab. He’s just watching and not on the phone or listening to anything that I can hear. It’s a Monday morning on a work day. He’s not working. He’s doing the Siddhartha writing assignment without writing. It’s all in his head, I presume.

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