Rivers running through the valley, skies’a blowing blue and I am falling madly for movement, for the smooth release of pace. May my feet keep my face away from still air. Still there? No. I’ve been eaten by the flow, torn away from home, and go I must and embrace with lust this new scene before me.
The water is huge, the current ripping and I am afraid to go too close. The leaves between my sneakers and the stone are slick. The vaulted drops and mist, popping and glowing like cold fire crackers, barrage and dampen everything on the shore. It’s loud. The recent rain, pounding the Adirondacks for nearly a week, has turned this section of the Grasse River from a faucet to a fire hose.
I know this feeling, this cage match between terror and revel. I feel it here, standing next to the merciless madness of falling water, terrified, but also glorified and connected. In this river, I see a grand and necessary part of life. I see release. Whether a gift or a curse, a feeding or a flooding, the river lets go.
Today, I am akin with the Grasse. I feel something running out of me in flood stage. We are both venting, seething, boiling over. For the Grasse, it’s a normal release of water, for me it’s a stubborn release of youth. Instead of rain, I have been getting advice, downpours of it. Law school, grad school, invest in property, get a job, plant yourself, see the world, write, work, figure it out, I know you can do it. Can I? Will I? I would rather cling to my home, to this wonderful and funky college lifestyle. But I can’t. Time is pulling me downstream.
If I go back to Connecticut, my home town will look much different to me. I have so many questions which never graced my eight year old, video game obsessed brain. How much does a house cost? What sorts of jobs are available? What type of people live here? Where are the hippies, the farms, the volunteers? Who will be my friends, because I surely cannot live on my own, and my family just won’t cut it anymore. Where will I drink? Do I need to get a car? Medical care?
Is Connecticut not the place for me? Do I belong on an expedition, in a classroom, a newsroom, behind a screen, with friends from SLU or new friends? GAHHH. These are questions I would rather not answer. I have developed a phobia of applications, of commitment, of being alone, and of even thinking about next year.
But I can’t escape this feeling as I watch it dance and sing in front of me. I eye the constant current and imagine myself in my kayak in the fray, being forced, by threat of harm, to pick a line, to point and shoot for better or for worse. The cold water stings my fingers, but the boat cuts smoothly through the waves, I push and lean, hold my breath, grunt, wail, feeling the stones skimming the hull, hidden obstacles being pulled, like me, to the sea, eventually.
When I leave this place, St. Lawrence, what will I take with me and what must I leave behind? What have I learned? I will have to let go of the physical features my eyes have grown accustomed to, let go of the places and faces adorned with the comfortable pillows of memory. SLU is my safety net, a soft landing for my follies, my fuck-ups, and my unnecessary risks. From now on, when I fail, I could harm myself or others. I lose the excuse, “it’s just college bro, whatever” and I become, reluctantly, a man, freshly molded, and presumably, ready.
It’s a question worth asking every day, “what have I learned?” because when it comes down to it, those sticky memories become who you are. Each day we add more, soaking up the water like maples in spring. Like the trees we use these lessons to grow, to become something more, something better. Without recognizing and appreciating this crucial process, you may stunt yourself, or worse, leave this beautiful place with nothing. So Saints, soak it up, grow and become the adult you want to be.