Today, I come to the waters to say goodbye. At the edge of the Mamquam, I blow lavender blossoms into the wind and bathe my medicine bundle in her icy current. This river has taught me much about being in-bodied, in the flesh and form of woman. I learned to love myself by watching her steady waters, held within the widening hips of her banks, flowing shameless and unbridled. I would lay awake in the dark, envisioning her weaving though the windy valley, cutting her own course, owning the rising and falling of her beingness. I called in her power until I came to know it as my own.
My children sit behind me on the bank, eating cherries, tearing the red flesh from stone. Crimson juice drips from their chins into the sand. A messy feast, like the eagles last fall ravaging spawning chum. It’s too cold to swim, Ophelia tells me, and she and Atlas settle just out of earshot on the edge of the Salmon Channel. They’ve been worrying about the fry in the heat and get to work clearing stone pathways that block the flow of the stream. Even from where I stand, I can see so clearly to the bottom where algae took over the ponds only weeks before. I watch them squatting above the little ones, as if the very nature of bearing witness is a form of protection; this work is of utmost importance, albeit temporary.
I look for the heron in his predictable spot at the edge of the water, but he has not arrived. The only birds I see are the sky-bound turkey vultures teetering in the thermals. Their trust in the groundless place soothes me. Since my children were chubby-knuckled babies I have taken refuge in this place. And now it is time to go. At home, the boxes are filled with soul dolls and ceremony, memories of a life of medicine made possible by my community.
My eyes fill with tears as I turn once more to the river. I thank her for her teachings of love and loss, and the beauty of change. I bow to this Mother, who taught me how to be at home, here, and everywhere, creating meaning by being a part of something bigger. I am reminded of one last teaching before we turn for the road. In the end, I know that the river chooses when to surrender, trembling and merging she is the one who gives herself over to the ocean. In this transitory space, I will call in her courage until I come to know it as my own.