Other Rivers, Other Voices

“The sound of water says what I think.”  Chuang-Tzu

Nobody believes in Charon anymore, not that it matters. No one has ever heard him grumble about his own invisibility. He has even gotten used to never sleeping. Too many deaths. Anyway, on every voyage his boat overflows with passengers. Long ago he became indifferent to the chorus of sullen mutterings from an endless queue of souls, all of them not wanting him to ferry them across the river to the other shore.

But there are other voices, and those voices sing.

Iroquois Dreams – Watercolor – 11 x 14 inches

The canoe’s spine cracked apart years ago and her hull splintered into pieces. Her ribs reach out like fingers, but too exhausted to feel the slightest touch, even a touch of sunlight. Birch and willows are only echoes in what remains of her life, and the rivers that cradled her have flowed away. What use is a river to a broken boat?

But listen to its music: From deepest waters, choirs of voices rise up and burst out of the throats of flowers: arias of dragonflies, the flaming sun, sand and pebbles on some faraway shore, flights of geese, acorns, the tears in things, grandmothers, snowstorms, the moons of Jupiter, wolverines, fragrances from last Spring’s lilacs, and brittle leaves falling in forests every morning for a million years. All the voices of water laugh as they sing to us, in whispers: “Death is a Lie.”

6 thoughts to “Other Rivers, Other Voices”

  1. Dude!!! I love the watercolor, but the imagery in your words tells the rest of the story.
    It’s a message of hope to those who may despair for no longer being able to ride the river’s currents.
    There’s more than one way to enter the stream.

  2. Jorge Guillén, the great Spanish poet from the Generation of ‘27, wrote a poem called “Naturaleza viva.” The title is a play on the words the Spanish use for “still life,” “naturaleza muerta.” In French too, still life refers to death: “nature morte.” In the Guillén poem, however, a tabletop, the subject of his “unstill life,” remains forever alive, “forever forest.” Your watercolor, “Iroquois Dreams,” is a powerful and beautiful reminder of the cycles of life. And your thoughts expressed in words certainly bring into conscious thought the life forces contained in the painting. I especially enjoy the accumulation of images, deft references to times and places in the past that nonetheless assert themselves in voices from the depths into the present: not dead at all; forever alive.

    The composition of the painting is also extremely dynamic and alive. The angle of the canoe, for example, thrusting forward, leaping off the page, very much “Unstill Life.

    1. Thanks, Kirsten.
      I appreciate your reading the post, Kirsten. Even though it takes me awhile to reply, I appreciate even more your comment. Many thanks. I hope all goes well for you and your little housemates.

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