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Creek Running North

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February 21, 2006

The same river twice

Willows fringed the river. Beaver slapped flat tail on water, made for the cutbank. You'd think she would have been accustomed to hikers. The little sandbar tied to the west bank of the Green was a popular launch for rafters. Perhaps it was some racial memory that drove her into the lagoon, paddling for the burrows in the wall of the bank.

Time's arrow flies in one direction. She came from her ancestors who survived the trappers, a greater wariness bred in.

The riverward side of the bar was sculpted. Great broad arcs of sand scooped away as with a pastry knife, cut by flood and eddy, the sandy waste washed down into Split Mountain Gorge. I laid on the bank. Clear water flowed past a foot from my face. Beneath it, yellow sand in ripples. Black sand washed down from Wyoming filled the ripple's troughs.

The river flows in one direction, but the black sand was too heavy to lift clean above the corrugated bottom. The grains bounced up a quarter inch, then dropped before the crests. They tumbled back downslope, upstream. The black lines in the hollows shifted, writhing, cursive sentences in a language no one knew. I tried to read them. They always shifted just as I was on the verge of comprehension.

I stood and walked to a point between two concave arcs. It was a prow of sand, a promontory, one of twelve evenly spaced along the bar, a foot above the water, eight feet apart. I pushed the point into the river with my foot, a cubic foot of sand dislodged.

A few seconds and the upstream point collapsed. And then the one beyond it. And the one beyond that.

Life flows in one direction only, but sometimes an eddy catches you. You pull toward the shore and back. Your life runs down the river while you watch. Sometimes in mid-river the past comes in, a trickle at first and then the flood.

Ten years ago I was on the river.

There is no present. A splash of a beaver's tail. A rock in the current will make a hole downstream, the river flowing through it. The hole is the same shape, more or less. Not an atom of it is the same from one minute to the next. This life flows cold and green through us. We stay the same shape, more or less.

Water lays down gravel, stone by stone, and we dig for it. Near my home are gravel mines by a river. A deepening quarry, or five, and the water breaks in. Filling the holes, the river quickens. It scours its bed back to the headwaters. Dig a hole downstream, and you deepen the river upstream. I dig holes now and wonder if the past will scour its bed.

Posted by Chris Clarke at February 21, 2006 10:58 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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Utter relativist nonsense.

Posted by: Pope Benedict XVI at February 22, 2006 09:17 AM
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Time! Heissenburg's Uncertainy Principle! Schrodinger's Cat!

If only I had the time to discuss them all here. Instead, I'll stay awake late tonight staring at my cieling and thinking about it all.

And then what dreams will come...

Posted by: Rain at February 22, 2006 09:19 AM
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lots to consider here. may i print this out to put in my personal journal?

Posted by: Anne at February 22, 2006 09:25 AM
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But Your Holiness! Some flaky channeler from Oregon said a bunch of stuff in a movie and used the word "quantum," so everything you hear from somewhere must be true!

Rain, as you likely know, Schroedinger first published the cat gedankenexperiment in his article "Die gegenwärtige Situation in der Quantenmechanik," published in Naturwissenschaften in November 1935. Which means that cat's been in the box for more than seventy years now. I'm pretty sure it's dead.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at February 22, 2006 09:27 AM
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And, of course, Anne, as always.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at February 22, 2006 09:27 AM
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Nobody let the cat out of the box?!?

I don't care what you say. I'm holding out hope that the cat might still be alive, especially if:
Somebody put some tater tots in there.
All the children who believe in Tinkerbell clap--right now!
We dismantle our conception of linear time. (Maybe Pope Benedict can explain the concept of angelic time to us.)

(The cat's name is really Tinkerbell, in sort of the same way as Frankenstein is the doctor, not the monster.)

Posted by: Rain at February 22, 2006 09:57 AM
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They always shifted just as I was on the verge of comprehension

This one line will haunt my sleep tonight.

One would think the river-as-life metaphor was done to death already. One would think wrong, as evidenced by this writing

Posted by: buck at February 22, 2006 10:03 AM
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"Everything flows, nothing stands still" — Herakleitos of Ephesus, aka Heraclitus the Obscure (circa 535 - 475 BC)(

Posted by: Mez at February 22, 2006 11:41 PM
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i read this three times at least looking for the damn cat. risking seriousness i will venture that schroedinger intended his cat thing as ridicule for the "indeterminate" state. the "uncollapsed" state vector.

other than that, you are one hell of a wordsmith chris.

Posted by: dread pirate roberts at February 23, 2006 07:06 PM
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