A River Runs Through It


“Eventually all things flow into one and a river runs through it.” – Norman Maclean

Although Norman Mclean was writing about fly-fishing in Montana, he could just as easily have been referring to our own Village.

As the Sangamon River Music Festival begins we should take time to ponder the fact that the Sangamon River is right there in the name of the Festival, and the Sangamon River runs right through the very heart of Mahomet.

So what is our River’s place in our community?

The Sangamon River is entrusted to this current generation of residents; we should accept this as our responsibility and our opportunity.

The River speaks,

Do we listen?

The River cries,

Do we shed a tear?

The River is ours to have and ours to enjoy as we wish, and ours to learn from, should we choose to listen. The River helps to teach us that what you get out of a river is what you put into it, sometimes quite literally.

For example, this past weekend, as you may read about in this week’s Citizen, several local and regional organizations hosted a cleanup of the Sangamon River. The group on the river consisted of 8 canoes and 6 kayaks and collectively hauled an estimated TWO TONS of people’s trash out of the river.  ALL of it purposefully discarded along a two mile stretch of the Sangamon River between Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve and Illinois 47, right through the heart of Mahomet. 

Our River depends on us to take care of it. After all, who else does it have?

Many of us are concerned about the changes in the weather. The Sangamon River teaches the permanency of change.

The River flows,

The River ebbs,

In endless cycles

                Of constant change.

The drought has profoundly affected our area’s agriculture and has also affected the Sangamon River.  Water levels in the river are extremely low, such that on the dry river bottom in my back yard, weeds now grow a foot and a half tall. But the river, down to four feet wide and a few inches deep in its small channel along the far bank, just keeps on flowing. And next spring, it will surely be six feet deep where I now stand on dry land. The river teaches us that ups and downs are all a part of the endless cycle of life.

Many this year have been concerned about the effect of the drought on the Second Annual Duck Race. Don’t worry, it looks like there is just enough water, although we may have to nudge the little swimmers along.

And speaking of swimmers…

The River is

A biological wonder

Creatures above,

Creatures below.

When I’m out walking on that large sand and gravel bar in my backyard that used to be the river, I see the tracks of the deer, the raccoon and the Great Blue Heron. Down in the shallow water, I see minnows, tadpoles, mussels and clams. I often see Carp and others have seen Gar.

And as part of Illinois Riverwatch, we collect and sample the River’s ‘macroinvertebrates’, the tiny little water bugs that indicate the health of the River’s water. To date, to our pleasant surprise, these data show that the Sangamon rates as a surprisingly healthy waterway, living up to its reputation as a “Biologically Significant Stream.”

The river also teaches us other life lessons:

The River’s course

teaches patience

Twists and turns

obscuring what lies beyond

the very next bend.

You can’t go back to yesterday, and you never get to tomorrow. The Sangamon River teaches us to live in the present, and that in life, we never know what lies ahead. Yet we can have faith, trusting that like the river, life does go on, and so we can go on, moving forward, even without knowing for certain what’s up ahead, even around the very next bend. We’re always in the moment. Live there.

The River teaches

Go with the flow,

Life is much easier

                Going downstream.

As we travel through life, if we stay on the path, we should be fine. Progress in a canoe or kayak is much less difficult when we keep it between the banks. Life is best lived within certain limitations. And no matter how light the current, going downstream is always easier. Even in the slightest current, forward motion is effortless, (though sometimes considerably slower!) The river is always in motion, always progressing and forever moving forward. So should we be. And ultimately, as in the quote from Norman Mclean, all things flow into one.

So this weekend as we enjoy the music, the singing, the dancing, the rides, the food, the parade, and the Lions’ beer tent, too, let’s not forget the many lessons of the River and that a River runs through it all.

Appeared as Notes from the River, Mahomet Citizen, August 23, 2012, by Scott Hays

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