Wakes and River Life



Confluence of Illinois & Mississippi Rivers

The dynamic relationship between a river and the land is constantly changing and it’s all because of water. When there is a lot of precipitation a river rises, breeches its banks and floods the land. A river shrivels during droughts when its flow is not much more than an old guy straining to pee. It rips up some parts of land while at the same time building new land in other places. Whether raging or meandering, life in and on a river is ever changing. Fail to respect water’s power and it will kill you.

Wakes on the river are the natural effect of boats breaking through the surface tension of water. We once crossed a wake head on with our powerboat, flew above water, slammed into the next wave with an impact that seemed as solid as hitting a Sequoia. Injuries to the crew, guests, and vessel were relatively minor but the experience was upsetting. Going into a wake head on amped up our respect for the fearsome power of water.



We saw many of our river friends today at the wake of one too young to die. If all the tears shed  today were dumped into our river the force of gravity would take them far downstream and finally out to sea. Our tears would encounter life forms barely imagined by Dante as he pondered Hell. They would become the new normal as we adapted to the currents. A tear is so small among billions of gallons of dark churning water that even if it’s pumped through a carp’s gills the tear would be comfortably floating free in no time. Its seaward journey would be punctuated by terrifying encounters with the unknown and the ecstasy of learning how all systems connect.


Drifting with the Current

On very hot days it’s fun to set the anchor, put on a life jacket, tie a strong line around your waist and secure the bitter end to a cleat on the boat. Even when the water seems gentle and listless the current is strong and tireless. Being swept downstream would be life threatening. Looking face down at the water it’s impossible to see your own feet. As Mark Twain mused, our river is, “too thin to plow, too thick to drink”. I have never seen below the surface but my belief that all sorts of life exists below keeps me on high alert. I do not need to see fish to believe they swim nor snag myself on a branch to fear letting go of the safety line.

The famous physicist Stephen Hawking once said he had done “all of the math” and could not find Heaven anywhere in the universe. Therefore Hawking does not believe Heaven or God exists. And then he did some more math and determined that there were many other universes and some are the opposite of everything we know. Last week some oceanographers figured out that most of what lives in the oceans resides far deeper than explorers have ever ventured. The scientists don’t know what lies beneath but believe that down deep all life is subject to change. Since we don’t know the nature of life miles below the surface we cannot determine how changes to it will affect relationships between other species, ourselves included. We simply don’t understand how we are related.

There are no Apps for a map of the universe that pinpoints Heaven or a route between where we stand and that destination. Like tears in the river left from a wake, we can take comfort in knowing that every living thing is programed to make the journey with no need for a map. Our guides are those who journey ahead and share the basic wisdom that life prepares us all for death. Just as we share the bias that river floods are disasters, in real life they are predictable and necessary for rivers to exist.  Wakes are the physical effects of movement though water, and of a loved one crossing the boundary between life and death. Wakes confirm our deep desire to live though the powerful currents of compassion and caring. Water is within and around us. That’s life. I’ve never been to Heaven but know it exists because of the peace of knowing that it is where all life flows. I did the math; 1 life plus 1 faith = eternal life. Peace Out, Mackenzie.


Heaven’s just a different address. GHL

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