He thought his happiness was complete when, as he meandered aimlessly along, suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed river.
(from The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame)
It was with a delight similar to Mole’s that, while exploring Carter Park for the first time, we discovered a path that led steeply down hill to the river. For the last year, we’ve driven over and along the river, even biked parallel to it for miles, but I could see no way down to the river banks without trespassing on private property. And so it was that as Jason and I ventured a few feet off the trail and onto a river shoreline of driftwood, gnarled trees, sand, and loose rocks imprinted with fossilized shells, we did so with the childlike joy of explorers finding a new land.
Moving water–be it a stream, river, or ocean–calls out a joyful response in me, an awakening of sorts, that is difficult to put into words. Perhaps Kenneth Grahame’s description of the river as seen through Mole’s eyes provides a glimpse into my experience of exploring at the bank while the sun slowly went down:
Never in his life had he seen a river before–this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again. All was a-shake, and a-shiver–glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble. The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spellbound by exciting stories; and when tired at last,he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.