When I was not slumbering, I spent long hours sitting at the balcony looking out to the river of my hometown. Each time I sat there by myself, I imagined Grandmother telling me more stories about the River’s Journey.
“In its journey, the river undergoes many experiences and changes. It even changes its color and size. Here in our village, the color is usually what you see now, crystal and shiny reflecting the sun’s radiance. But depending on the life around it, a river may turn into other colors.
“In the olden times, when we didn’t have mirrors hanging on our walls, we went to the streams and rivers to look at our reflections. The river is our mirror ― as we are alive, breathing and moving, the river is also alive, breathing and moving. If you poison the river, you will in turn be poisoned by it. Like the healthy blood flowing inside our veins, the river is the blood of the earth, and as long as it is healthy and keeps flowing, all life on earth is nourished.
“The river may grow big and may also shrink. It may unite with other rivers coming from different directions. If they find a common ground, two or more rivers unite to form a bigger and a more powerful river. Joined rivers travel for a while, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter, sometimes forever. Often, after traveling together, joined rivers separate and go different ways. But they would no longer be the same as when they first met, for they would have already given and taken something from each other. It is like in a family, or between friends.
“You find a friend to share your journey of life with. You and your friend walk some distance and you give and take and share and learn from each other. But a time may come when you may have to go your separate ways. When this moment comes, you would no longer be the same people as when you first met, for you would have added to each other’s experience in the journey.
“Maybe you have to part ways for the reason that you have different opinions on how to travel downstream. Perhaps your friend wants to explore more of the nooks and crannies of the big towns while you prefer to flow on the more laid back riverbeds of the countryside. You had a father, a mother, sisters, brothers and me. Some of us leave first. You continue the journey with your siblings, but as you are all grown up, you are drawn to explore different directions. Despite this, all of us, in the end, would eventually meet at the final destination and be reunited again as the one big family that we are.
Bakun, Benguet Philippines
“And when in your journey, you find yourself confused and agitated, or in a turbulent mood – when as if your emotions are like the river rapids – in a rough flow – so to speak, don’t resist where the current brings you next. Do not be discouraged or disturbed by constantly shifting landscapes. Does the river get intimidated and perceive itself a victim when an immovable giant boulder blocks its course? No, the river simply curves smoothly around the obstacle and flows on.
“Does the river cringe in fright when it finds itself standing at the edge of a precipice? Certainly not. The river takes a leap of faith; it is then that the murmuring river becomes the roaring mighty waterfalls! It survives the leap and discovers more of itself – its abilities and possibilities.
“The river knows that after a rough flow, a smooth flow awaits for it, right at the next bend. And when there is not much happening and the river is smoothly flowing, does the river complain of boredom? Again, no. The river takes such quiet moments as opportunities to get itself clear. So you see? The river yields and yet it is invincible. The river can tap into its ancient spirit’s wisdom, and know, that this is truth.”
“The river’s spirit is ancient?” I suddenly reacted.
“Only as a way of talking, we may say that some rivers are quite old, having been flowing on the surface of this earth for a very long, long time. Yet we may also speak of rivers which are newly fashioned. An old river has already smoothed and refined many jutting rocks and rough stones, so those parts of it coming later may follow the same path without wounding themselves too much.”
I sensed Grandmother’s presence and wisdom as I channeled more of her River’s Story in these imagined conversations. I felt greatly relieved from my illness of pathological pessimism.
Excerpted from: Becoming Mad and Asking Why the River is Flowing by Allu Kuy.