Seeking the river’s soul

Published 8:35 pm Tuesday, April 29, 2014

By Rex Alphin

Does the river have a soul?

First, let’s agree on the definition of “soul.” Webster’s Ninth Collegiate Dictionary defines it as “the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause” of a person or thing.

Email newsletter signup

Does the river have a soul, then? I do not know.

It has a mystery. It has a perpetual eternality that communicates: “I was here before you, and I shall be here after you.”

It communicates. Around trees, over barely submerged logs, against banks, speaking some unknown rhythmic language that only its constant companion, the forest, seems to understand.

It attracts. Wildlife and wind flutter in and out of its presence. It draws smaller sources of water from miles around, down, down, down into its belly into one giant, moving motion that grows on its journey southward, calling out as it does “Come join me! I am alive and constant. We are in this together, you and I.”

Its beckoning brings forth brooks, streams, swamps and canals into one. Just one, like some mighty master, some irresistible force whose calls, ultimately, cannot be resisted. They seem eager to pour themselves into this one, a rush towards life, as if it were a larger calling.

It has no argument. It casts no judgment. Rather it accepts. Simply accepts. The sinner, the downtrodden, the struggler, those who are beaten down. The weeper, the desperate, the depressed. The hungry for life.

To the hopeless and the homeless, it says, simply, “Come and be with me. I shall soothe your soul. I shall place balm on your wounds. I shall stroke your hair wetted with tears.”

It listens. One is not interrupted, for it can listen forever. It receives, calmly and silently like an eternally patient companion with nothing more important than to be there for you.

It is always there. Though one can leave it, one can always return and find it, still there, still present, still abiding in its place, holding steadfast to its lot in life, its foothold amongst the cosmos, its ordered destination, as if appointed by some decree.

It is content. It does not resist its situation, but rather accepts it and rests in it, as if to say “Here is where I was meant to be. Here I desire to be and here I shall stay and dwell. Forever.”

Does the river have a soul? Seems to me it does.

Rex Alphin of Walters is a farmer, businessman, author, county supervisor and contributing columnist for the Suffolk News-Herald. His email address is