Ride The River: On Moving Home & Life's Uncertainty

a woman on the columbia river, columbia gorge washington

For the last year I’ve lived along the Columbia River that divides Washington from Oregon. It’s the largest river flowing into the Pacific Ocean from North America. It bends and winds its way 1200 miles and flows into 10 main rivers. The largest of its tributaries is the Snake River, connecting me 1000 miles to my home state of Wyoming.

Though I haven’t spent any time on the Columbia River, I’ve spent enough of it resting my gaze on its majestic expanse and watching it flow. Some mornings it’s completely still, like glass, and I wonder if it's even moving at all. Other days it’s fully awakened and alive with movement with waves large enough to entertain dozens of wind surfers.

Over the holidays I flew home to Wyoming, peering out the plane window at the earth's maze of rivers. During my layover in the Denver airport I crossed paths serendipitously with a man who happened to live in Casper, Wyoming. He was on his way to Texas, his home state. We exchanged numbers and grabbed a drink at a local brewery some days later when he returned to Casper.

Between awkward jokes and nervous comments the topic of spirituality and religion came up. “What makes you feel connected… I mean, spiritually?” I asked him.

His eyes drifted slightly beyond me as he imagined the scene. “The river,” he said. “I could watch it for hours; the way it’s always moving and changing. It’s never the same in any single moment.”

My vision blurred as I fell into my own memories of all the moments I’d spent near rivers and in rivers, experiencing their constant flow. Like the time I lived in a van in Alaska down by the river (Saturday Night Live, anyone?) and spent time simply watching it go by.

A few days later I found myself walking along the half-frozen Platte River in Casper as the sun melted into a sunset over the horizon. The Platte meanders through town, holding it together like a spine does a body. The air was clear and still. The stars were just barely beginning to stretch themselves out across the expanse of a Wyoming sky...