“Time is an enormous long river”


“Time is an enormous long river. My elders were the tributaries… every struggle they went through… and every poem they laid down flows down to me. If I take the time to ask… I can build that bridge between my world and theirs, I can reach down into that river and take out what I need to get me through this world.”

In 1996, I bought the wonderful collaborative cd, The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere, in which Ani DiFranco used the stories told by Utah Phillips between songs in his concerts to make an amazing tapestry of music and language, his and hers. It was innovative in the best sense and I listened to it obsessively. I still have the cd though I haven’t listened to it for years. It used to be road music, the perfect thing to have playing as we drove down the Fraser Canyon or along the Similkameen River, wind coming in the windows and the smell of flint and pine.

Last night in my dream, Utah Phillips was saying, over and over again, “Time is an enormous long river.” I know why. Yesterday was a day when I sank into my bed and thought that there are simply too few hours for the things needed to be done. Or wanted. My garden is a jungle. I am trying to find the right images for my forthcoming book and it’s hard to figure out who, what, where, when. I have a basket of fabric I want to plunge into indigo dye — some of the fabric is tied and ready; some needs to be worked with. I need some days without anything else so I can mix dye and begin the immersions. When I reached for a board yesterday afternoon to knead bread dough on, I realized that all the shelves are thick with dust. Someone needs to clean! My papers need sorting (more on that in a few weeks). “Time is an enormous long river.” It is, it truly is, but you have be in it to be part of its flow and its accumulations of silt and history. I feel as though I’m on the shore, looking the other way.

Yet the river is here, the river of time, and everything in it rushing around my ankles, my knees, the scent of water, the beautiful muscular fish, the bodies of the drowned and living, the ripples I want to badly to replicate on cloth, the glitter of mica, the bridges with their ancient flaking paint, the one over the Fraser at Alexandria, the one over the Rosebud near Wayne, the pretty bridge at Chopaka. Does a river care about dust or weeds or filing systems? Time to find The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere and spend a hour or two listening again.

2 thoughts on ““Time is an enormous long river””

  1. This is a wonderful post and extremely timely! Chris and I were complaining the same thing last night – there is so much we want to do and never enough time. We are both pulled in so many directions right now – for her: the livestock, the fields, the garden, painting the house, and on and on; for me: all I want to do is work on my book and be in the garden, and I can never manage to get through the work on my desk to make time for those two things. But then I did make time yesterday to listen to a podcast that brought me to a similar place, I think, that Ani de Franco and Utah Phillips bring you. It was a great reminder to stand still in the river and feel the water rushing around my knees, and smell its scent. And thank you, thank you, Theresa, for telling me about that album. I didn’t know about it, and it sounds fantastic, and I’ll look for it.

    1. It’s such a great album, Leslie. So intelligent and interesting and the very best kind of collaboration. When I listen to Utah’s voice, Ani’s amazing guitar, I want to rise to that challenge somehow.
      We don’t have livestock to claim our time but a garden, our writing, visits to the grandbabies and their parents (and their aunty), house maintenance,various volunteer tasks — whew, the day is gone and who ever saw it leave? Though yesterday I thought, “I’m not going to avoid the rhubarb any longer”, reached for it under the prickly gooseberry bushes, wiped off the bloody marks, and made a spectacular crisp so it’s not all drudgery!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s