Joseph Anderson

Mountains and Rivers Without End: The Flowing

Over stone lip

     the creek leaps out as one     divides in spray and streamers,
     lets it all          go.

This poem, “Falls”, from Gary Snyder’s epic Mountains and Rivers Without End, is a hymn to motion.

“Falls” follows the water from the melting snow “rocked between granite ribs”, through “mucky shallow flows” and “sandy shiny flats”, then “soars off ledges/Crash and thunder on the boulders at the base”:

There is no use, the water cycle tumbles round ________

There is something sympathetic between the flow of words an the flow of water – the titanic push behind them, the subtle and often not deliberate patterns that appear, are submerged, disappear. And (in writing, the moment of publication) “lets it all       go”.

Our creative expression, and our life itself, is flowing through us with thundering, ever-changing fluidity. How to transform the panicked feeling, the loss of control, into the most spectacular joyride?

The poem goes on to explore other kinds of disorienting movement, from the uplift of the Sierra Nevada and “pine trees [that] leapfrog upon sunlight” to the cedar log “that hopes/to get to sea at last and be/a great canoe.”

And concludes with this:

Rainbow hanging steady
     only slightly wavering with the
          swing of the whole spill,
               between the rising and the falling,
                    stands still.

I stand drenched in crashing spray and misty
     and pray.

In the midst of the whirl of life, changing seasons, cascading water, constant movement and growth and change in earth and all its beings – there is a still point of rest, imaged here as a waterfall-rainbow, gently hovering over the spray, that “Between the rising and the falling,/stands still.”  And the final image is the human choice we can make, to stand still ourselves, in the presence of and witness to the motion, with consciousness steady and alert, in awed reflection upon and acceptance of the wonders in which we participate.