The Snake and the Eel

What is a river, then? It is a stream, a flow, a run, which gives a Rhine, a Rhone, a river and a row. But what is it, when those words aren’t there, and it is just a man or a woman or a child and the flow, the stream, the run itself? Ah, look, here is the home of the moray eels, or it was before the dams stopped them coming home to the Columbia and then up the Snake and then up this little stream at Asotin to spawn.


And what are eels but the flow itself? Water, embodied, that’s what they are. The dry land collects as a flow and there it is, not water, not a creek or a river or a stream, but the land in this form of coming forth, of embodying its energy, first as the Asotin stream, then as the eels, then as the people who come to the eels. Here we are farther up the Snake looking downstream.


Before the dams upriver, this flow would have been twice as strong. It would have roared. Look at the eel of it. Look at the salmon of it. Look at it as one continuous muscle, as a part of your body that you come to, just as the eels, which are part of the river, come to Asotin Creek. It is the land’s voice. You could say you are the land’s voice, but you’re not, because you’re the land. You are this water. That’s what it is to be fully human, and not a thing made of words.

2 replies »

  1. Good one, Harold. I live on the Bonaparte River just north of Ashcroft – love your references. A friend has been encouraging me to “get grounded” by spending some little time standing on rocks, of which we have plenty here, down below the booth of glacial Lake Kamloops. Works best for me to stand on a big rock in the river: quickly flowing water, slow moving silt, soil and gravel, very slow moving large rocks. And with the good sunshine and the warm gentle winds, I get fire, air, earth and water in one go.

    Enjoy your photos and epistles. Many thanks.
    John Kidder


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