Whenever I fly, I scan the earth below for rivers. From that vantage point, I can marvel at their serpentine paths. I can see the yawning canyons they’ve carved into centuries of stone. From the air, rivers remind me that nature, like life, is beautiful, raw, unpredictable, and keeps moving no matter what.
Once you get closer, a river is a different, more intimate experience. To my husband, a fly fisherman, rivers are meditative. They tickle all the senses. Standing in one, you can feel its push, hear its hurry, smell its life. From baptisms to funeral pyres, people use rivers to begin and end life.
I stayed on the shores of the first river in my life, Cleveland’s Cuyahoga. It was so notoriously polluted that it caught fire in 1969. My Cuyahoga was the strip of restaurants and nightclubs that lined its banks. It was in the so-called Flats that I danced my way through my first job as a rock-music critic.
The other river in my life, the Hudson, is the setting for our dramatic hero story here. My Hudson was the sparkling view from my first apartment in Battery Park City and my morning running route.
Then, on September 11, the Hudson was how I got out of town when I was trapped at the southern tip of Manhattan. I hopped a railing and boarded a commuter ferry across it to Jersey City. On that morning, a river was a lifeline.
It all reminds me of the lyrical line at the end of the brilliant Norman Maclean book and haunting Robert Redford movie: “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.”