River as Anti-Depressant

Yesterday, I was feeling pretty punk. There are many good reasons, none of which I will bore you with here. Ordinary stuff that on other days wouldn’t have made me think twice had gathered together and weighed me down. Luckily I had an appointment with my life coach, Nancy. She said to me the same thing I say to my own clients: “How about going outside? Maybe to the river? Just breathe, and let the sun fall on your shoulders, and perhaps walk for two minutes in one direction and then two minutes back?”

The South Yuba is 11 minutes from my house. Looking downstream from the old Highway 49 bridge to the new Highway 49 bridge.

There is almost nothing more irritating than getting given your own advice and realizing you hadn’t thought of it yourself, even though this happens to most of us a LOT and it’s why everyone needs a life coach. I was so irritated that I went home and stayed in the house for the rest of the day, just to prove that I’m perfectly fine and don’t need help from anyone. Who cares if it’s 70 degrees and sunny at the end of March and every flower known to humankind is blooming? This is, unfortunately, sometimes how I roll. Not just sulking, but revenge-sulking.

It’s a glamorous green 2002 Highlander with 179K miles on it, and gets about 8 miles to the gallon. Don’t be jealous.

My moods only last 24 hours, though, so by today I had regained my senses. I went to my favorite café for a latte, critiqued three poems in half an hour, and then drove myself to the river. I was the first car in the lot, and the sun had already hit the water.

Last week the river was brown and skanky-looking, full of the rain we’d been getting and churning up muck from the banks. It’s still flowing fast, but has settled back into its granite bed and cleared back to a lovely green again.

I stood on the old bridge for a while and watched the water careen downstream, the roar drowning out my thoughts, and many swallows (barn swallows? tree swallows?) dipping and juking over the swimming hole as they made their nests under the bridge railings. (Juking comes from a Galway Kinnell poem, “Last Gods.” I hope he made it up but I have no proof of this. It’s not his best poem, but you should read it nevertheless, as he would say.)

Then I looked upstream and watched that for a while, facing into the sun, thinking nothing for a long time and then musing about light and shadow and how dumb it would be if I dropped my phone into the drink by mistake. I am somewhat afraid of heights, so I leaned my hip into the cement posts of the railing to take photos and thought sturdy, well-planted thoughts.

Crazy young men and boys do jump off this bridge into the swimming hole in summer, despite the signs, mostly surviving, and there have been a couple of suicides over the years. I took the warning personally and explained, in my head, that I wasn’t feeling morose any more or I wouldn’t have come here. Plus, the heights thing.

There were some other signs, of a safety and cleanliness nature.

I like this one. Good font, the cut-out is rad, and it’s not a bilious color of yellow at all.

After I had walked across the bridge three times, taken pictures, spoken to signs, and found one lovely butterfly whose name I don’t know, it was time to make the circuit down to another, flatter, part of the river, to see what was going on down there.

Along the way I saw a lot of green grass (winter and spring are when California turns as green as Ireland) and my first blooming redbud of the season.

That bright green over the redbud’s right shoulder is a buckeye leafing out. They’re nearly neon, and very early.

At this part of the river, known as Bridgeport, there were many cars, hikers, schoolchildren, and whatnot. I didn’t feel like stopping to engage with the bustle. I did pause illegally in the middle of the road to take this photo of the covered bridge, though, and the much calmer South Yuba flowing beneath it. Then I drove home in order to resume being a poet and life coach and get some work done. And of course, to thank the ever-patient Nancy for her wise counsel which worked quite well, it turned out.

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5 thoughts on “River as Anti-Depressant

  1. I so enjoyed your tour of the river and bridges. Thanks for the life coach perspective, too! Keep on writing for all of us who appreciate your interesting thoughts and pictures.
    P.S. I have purchased your books. Good reading!!

  2. Pardon my chiming in like a puckered school marm, but “juking,” used in a poem by Galway Kinnell is not unique to the poet. It’s a wonderful verb with origin in the early 16th century, originally Scottish. Any Campbell or sports fan would guess this, but the OED confirms. Think of it as a feint with sharp edges. But, revenge-sulking? So perfect!

    1. Thank you for the history, Kate! And not puckered at all, a smooth-skinned teacher! 🙂 I could even have looked this up if I hadn’t been so worn out from revenge-sulking that I never thought to…

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