THE RIVER Reflections
A collection of observations, thoughts, and ideas related to THE RIVER.


Langston Hughes
American poet

You may read
the full text
at the Poetry Foundation.



I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.



Maria Magdelena Swanson
(née Velasquez)



On the feast of St. John the Baptist, we would celebrate by having a picnic by the river,
as the waters are specially blessed on the day. Our neighbors and we would cook chicken and
bring rice, tortillas, pinto beans, and cheese, for the picnic. We would go to a pine forest,
located by a river in the Sierra Madres mountains of Chihuahua, Mexico, not far from the small
village where we lived. People would make music with mandolins and guitars while everyone else danced.


In Dakota/Lakota, we say "Mni Wiconi," which means water is life. Native American people know that water
is the first medicine for all human beings living on this Earth. Water also makes up an important part of
our cultural traditions. Some families that reside by water that runs into the river even refer to themselves
by their creeks. They are from the Big Lake Family, the Four Mile Family and the Porcupine Creek Family, all
tributaries of the Missouri River.


Shusaku Endo

Japanese Novelist
Deep River, 1993


At the end of her range of vision, the river gently bent, and there the light sparkled,
as though it were eternity itself.
I have learned, though, that there is a river of humanity. Though I still don't know what lies
at the end of that flowing river. But I feel as though I've started to understand what I was yearning
for through all the many mistakes of my past...

What I can believe in now is the sight of all these people, each carrying his or her own individual
burdens, praying at this deep river...

I believe that the river embraces these people and carries them away. A river of humanity.
The sorrows of this deep river of humanity. And I am a part of it.



Frank Waters

People of the Valley , 1941


It was el Dia de San Juan de Bautista, and she had kept the faith.

On this day all the waters of the earth are blessed, the seas, the rivers and the ritos, the clear forest streams, and all the muddy acequias meandering through the fields. So at break of day you must go down to the stream and bathe. Thus you will be immersed in the one living mystery, the waters of life blessed by St John the Baptist, he who baptized the Cristo Himself…

Water is like life. It is life. It permeates everything. The hand of God drops it at birth. It trickles down the snowy peaks, the little streams feed rito and acequia, the great rivers rush down to the sea. And the deep sea too feeds with mist and vapor that great blue lakee of life unseen by us all, to be renewed again and ever.

What is life without water? What is life without faith? So all the waters of the earth are blessed, and all the flesh of the earth is permeated by its flow, and all the earth of the flesh is sanctified by faith.

For faith is not a concept. It is not a form. It is a baptism in the one living mystery of ever-flowing life, and it must be renewed as life itself is renewed.

This is the meaning of any dam, that it would obstruct the free flow of faith which renews and refreshes life and gives it its only meaning. It is self-enclosing. It means stagnation. It means death.

Faith is not dammed. It is not measured and meted out when timely. It must be free to penetrate every cell and germ of the whole. For it is the obstructed whole that finally bursts the dam, brings destruction and misery, swamps the temporal benefits of the past.

There are dams. There will be more. But all are temporal and unwhole. For they, like us, are spattered, swept and undercut by an unseen flow – a flow that is stronger than the casual benefits, that never ceases to permeate and undermine our lesser faiths, and which can never be truly dammed.


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