Soft, crunching sounds issued beneath my boots as I walked to the edge of the river. From a hundred yards away came the steady exhale of the falls, white noise buffered by the snowpack on the ground and trees. Vermont. A river and a covered bridge. Snow-laced trees imprinted against a morning sky pitched a robin’s egg blue. Their reflections ensnared in the sheer surface of the icy river. The scene was ludicrously idyllic; the only things missing were a singing and dancing Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby.
I peered at the river, expecting to see the tracks of skaters etched into the surface when I noticed that the river was not fully frozen nor fully thawed. Whatever molecules had bonded together, they did so in the same casual fashion as the way a group of school children on an outing hold to a length of rope, each small hand resting lightly on the line.
The river was moving despite the fragile veneer of ice. It took a moment to recognize, but I could see the water trudging at a glacial pace. Viscous. The river performed a languid Tai-chi, its energy becoming palpable once you keyed into the nearly imperceptible shift and heft of its flow. It hauled itself forward with a kind of ancient grace.
Currents course just below the surface of things. They may not be transparent enough to satisfy our need for instant relief and gratification (Shit. Is. Happening! See?!), but they exist, they matter, they make impact. Perhaps if there is one lesson from this strange, upside-down, bruising year it is that there are forces in play that we might not readily detect, but nevertheless marshal us forward.
Decency prevailed in Alabama this week. It was ushered in with a sigh underneath the keening gale of fear-laced rhetoric. Powerful men who enjoyed long, successful careers built on unchecked influence and a flagrant disregard for rule and ethics continue to vanish. The low, persistent hum of “me too” drowns out their excuses, their apologies. They wink out of sight like satellites dipping below the the horizon.
A man gets up every day, dresses in a suit and tie, and heads to a bland office in a big, metropolitan city. He pours himself a cup of coffee, greets his team, and opens up a spreadsheet on his laptop. He scans through reams of documents—financial statements, recorded testimonies, emails. He stalks justice with the same tools used by every hunter since the first peoples roamed the continent—patience, persistence, a stoic communion with his surroundings, the quiet will to prevail. Fire rains from the sky and it hardly registers. He follows the rhythm of the river in winter, the one you have to squint and get still enough to register. The one most of us overlook, too distracted by a thousand different kind of alarm bells ringing.
I idle for a few more minutes on the bank of the river. I realize I’ve leaned forward slightly, my head tilted toward the water. I’m concentrating on the subtle movement below me. I’m listening. I don’t know what for, but I want to be ready to hear.