The Appalachian mountains 30,000 feet below resembled a crumpled, dark green blanket. As we flew east, nearing D.C., I looked down upon the gleaming Potomac. I loved that damn river with its tidy banks, neatly lined, and milky brown waters swirling into mesmerizing patterns. The plane crossed the river and turned immediately so its nose pointed upstream. Reflecting the sun, the river was enlightened in the early evening haze. South of Alexandria, tiny docks like fingers reached out over the water from fancy mansions, further proving the river’s power: Those with the most money could access it easiest.
“Dad, why have you always been so interested in rivers?” I called one night to ask.
“Well, I like to know the beginnings of things and then where they end up.”
He always liked bodies of water. I remember him telling my brother and I when we were younger that before he attended medical school he was studying to become a marine biologist. He thinks often about oceans and rivers and where water flows. He is a fisherman and a boater and a Scorpio. Wherever we travel together, my dad wonders aloud about rivers. As a sassy teen, I did not share this curiosity.
Lately I’ve been thinking about all the riparian adventures I’ve had with my dad. Along the Arno, the Hudson, the Tiber, the Arkansas, the Greenbrier. Watching ducks on the banks of the Rahway and jumping mullet on the Silver. Standing along the Delaware near the famed spot where George Washington crossed. Crabbing in the Manasquan where I worried about boiling our catch alive. Caravanning along the Colorado in May watching rafters tossed about in turbulent, pre-blizzard waters. Crossing the Matanzas on the bridge with the stone lions and riding horses overlooking the New. Listening to loud booms scaring away flocks of black vultures along the Myakka. Traveling from the source of the Poudre at the continental divide to its overflowing banks in Fort Collins. After a competitive game of mini-golf during a father-daughter dinner along the Ohio, my dad gently convinced me to break up with my boyfriend at the time.
“But I like him,” I protested (with weak conviction).
“Yeah, well, then you’ll like someone else too.”
He was right. And the rivers keep flowing.