This is how I feel about the Roanoke River in my neighborhood— the inconspicuous, mostly unobtrusive life-blood and ancient lifeline through this valley. I was floating the other evening and from a distance saw a young woman on the bank. There was something about the way she was walking, slowly, with a reflective air that caught my attention. Somehow from afar I could feel she was consciously connecting to the river. As the current carried me close, I recognized her, and she me, and she shouted over the light rumbles of the falls “We’re FB friends!” But in seconds we were too distant to talk and that was it.
I thought I knew her name, and FB (despite its deserved negatives) helped me verify my foggy brain was accurate; it was Katie Trozzo as I thought. We have many mutual friends and yet as far as either of us could recall after, until this instant had never met. So I sent a quick note and, spurred by some unspoken sense during our brief crossing, invited her floating. She was immediately game, even for a pre-workday, dawn float.
We embarked as the sun was rising. One of several delightful surprises was seeing that she had brought a cache of sunflowers and set them to float in the river when we entered the water. It was a genuine, heartfelt gesture of admiration and “thank you.” This first “flower blessing to the river” for me, felt somewhat akin to lighting a candle at a shrine. I very much appreciated it in every way.
From this lovely commencement we shared in rich, sincere conversation about her daily outdoor singing ritual, the possibilities of granting a river rights in our society, ecology, COVID, vaccinations, aging parents, and the many challenges of finding our own path and our tribe in this ever-more complex world. It’s so very heartening to me to engage with smart, sensitive young people who are willing to consider hard questions and further, are concerned about life beyond their own, recognize the interconnections, and who are in turn actively engaged in forging communal paths on their own courageous initiative.
We also shared several sweet silences, encountering or floating past no less than six herons — two great blues at the start, two not quite mature adults (black-crowned night herons, I think), a green heron intently focused on breakfast, and another great blue (very possibly one of the first pair that had flown downriver) just beyond the bridge where we came out, which beautifully and appropriately bookended a most serene morning.