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Small Wonders: Floating on the proverbial river

September 10, 2010|By Patrick Caneday

Did you see it this week? That sudden, violent collision of summer into fall? I couldn't look away, it was so disturbing.

A day after swimming with the kids and painting sunscreen on them with a roller, I opened the front door and was overcome with gloom. Walking down the driveway, I was smothered in gray, moist air. We'd been transported to Portland overnight.

Next to the newspaper on the sidewalk was a dried worm. He must have come out last night to lounge on the warm concrete, but couldn't make it back to the safety of grass in time. Ants were dissecting him, carrying away microscopic bits.

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After dropping the kids off at school, I sat down to get some writing done; put my mind to what I should tell you this week. Religion again? I don't have the energy this week, maybe next. The kids? No, just did that. Local politics? Nah. We've got other columnists better suited for that. Lindsay Lohan? No, she's behaving herself.

I sat there paralyzed, looking past the computer screen and out into the muted day, unable muster a creative thought. Every sentence started, but failed to find root. I couldn't get rid of the clouds.

Don't get me wrong. I love the cooler weather. I'm not myself until I pull out the flannel shirts each year. Nothing warms my soul so much as winter days with the rumor of foghorns and ship bells somewhere off in the distance; the equivalent of train whistles far away on a summer's night. But this was just too sudden for me. Sorrows, like estranged, unsavory relatives, arrived for a party I didn't want to attend.

It felt like the better parts of me were being carried off by ants.

Only one thing to do. Head for the river.

There's a river that runs through our collective backyards; it starts as clandestine springs somewhere atop a mountain to the north. It ends south, past the glass and metal and concrete, in an ocean we can't see from here. Its banks are steep and paved by men, as is its riverbed.

But it is a river, make no mistake. It runs past schools and ranches, by power plants, soccer fields and playgrounds; alongside freeways and warehouses. Past buildings that will be long gone as she still wanders through the lives of our children, and their children.

Runoff it's called, the water that flows through this river. An appropriate word, runoff, for the things we no longer want; the things we can't bear to look at again. Let the current take it all away. The river is polluted and murky, but it can't be killed. Nor can the life it sustains.

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