Our California winter this year has been blessed with abundant rain. As I walked in my neighborhood park last week, I marveled at the numerous rivers and streams.
I pondered what my favorite river on earth was, thought about it all week.
Rivers traverse all the continents. Over the centuries, cities have been founded on rivers for their power. They support large populations, and carry heavy loads of people and products. Rivers are the basis for the growth of civilization.
I have known so many rivers. How could I pick just one? Could you?
One favorite at the top of my thoughts: the Chobe River in Botswana. A popular watering place for African game. We watched wild dogs celebrating a kill, elephants crossing, and hundreds of ungulates.
Then there is the Zambezi, another favorite. It is immense, and one of its most spectacular features: Victoria Falls.
In Zambia, where the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers converge, we had many lively experiences as we waited for the ferry to cross the river.
And the Luangwa River, a major tributary of the Zambezi, holds the largest concentration of hippos in the world. Native residents share the river with crocodiles and hippos.
Folks who fish rivers can read the water like a book.
Across the world in South America is the Amazon; we spent a week on the Madre de Dios River, a tributary.
It was buggy and humid in Amazonia, almost uninhabitable. I treasured the time we spent cruising this river, for the cool breeze and mosquito relief; and the myriad of wildlife species.
I have many favorite rivers elsewhere, too. My home country has so many rich riverways. The Yellowstone River, a tributary of the Missouri, brings frigid waters tumbling down from the Rocky Mountains.
The Colorado River, the Snake, the Columbia…and many more that I have had the opportunity to behold.
In California, my home state, the Sierra Mountains deliver our highly revered water every day. We talk in winter about the snowpack, and every time officials measure the snow levels it makes all the newspapers, because this is the year’s source of survival. Dozens of rivers transport this liquid gold to us.
Drought and fires haunt us, and we revel when it rains.
What about the river of my childhood, the Mississippi? I was born and raised in the Midwest, where the Mississippi is integral. I’ve had decades of adventures on this river’s numerous branches.
Could the Mississippi be my favorite?
As I continued to ponder the earth’s rivers, I remembered my times on the Rhine, the Danube, the Thames, the Amstel, and more.
Australian rivers, where I saw the rare Papuan Frogmouth (bird) from a motorboat; and my first wild platypus.
As I walked in the park beneath the California oak trees, I heard rambunctious acorn woodpeckers conversing, and red-tailed hawks declaring their territories.
I love it that every day the river here is different depending on the light, time of day, precipitation.
It is here that I finally got the answer I was seeking. For today, my favorite river is this one…
…where my feet are planted, where my eyes take in the ever-glinting movement, and my spirit is calmed by the whispering waters.
This funny little river, a stream, really. Quiet, perhaps unnoticed by some, it is a wealth of life and bliss.
Written by Jet Eliot.
Photos by Athena Alexander unless otherwise indicated.