It was Father's Day this past weekend, which means my family was on the river: it has become our new tradition, or is becoming a tradition, to float the John Day every Father's Day weekend. It's probably the best way we have of honoring my dad, who is best suited for the wildness of rivers and rocky stretches of ridge lines, and of course, it's very fun. We go in good company, with my most of my mom's family there, so we form a long flotilla of boats gliding around each bend. Rivering is good for us, our bodies and our minds. It is good to spend a few days not bound to the land, but tied instead to the water. Remember that the river is a revelation, that it is the pulsing artery of the body in ground around it. I am reminded of this every trip sometime after the first night, when I unzip the tent and stumble towards the circle of people on the banks of the river drinking coffee. Drawn to the water first thing, a magnet, as we discuss the weather and the surface of the water and what the day will be like when we're back out there.
This trip was a little unusual because it wasn't hot as blazes, the sun didn't sit on our laps the whole way, we didn't sit around fretting about burns every night. It is hard to get away from, the sun, when it's hot out on the river. Instead we were treated to a stormy river, a tempest river. It rained on us, the wind blew (hard) upstream, giant thunderheads raced across the sky. We had a an afternoon with sun, enough to throw on swimsuits and let the current carry us down for a good old-fashioned splash n' giggle, but mostly things were stormy.
I liked it, truth be told. I know the river now in so many different moods. In sunlight so bright it hurts your eyes, in the quiet, burnished color of winter, in the tempestous way of storms. I am beginning to really know it, the river. I am beginning to memorize the bends of it, the places we've camped before, which ridges lead where. I know it now the way you know a heart place, and it makes me feel a little protective. Not protective, possessive.
We hiked up to the top of Cathedral Rock on our last full day, because it wasn't as hot as it normally is. Cathedral Rock are these long lines of basalt, from the volcanic activity that carved out much of the region, and it curves down to meet the water, both rigid and fluid. From there, you can see the curve of the river and the undulating landscape--views like I've seen before, chukar hunting--and from there I just had a feeling, that I belonged to it and it belonged to me. By knowing and loving that river I have made it a little mine.