It was highest my 23rd year, but I didn't know it at the time
. It had been steadily building up. The first time I noticed
the river, it was a bit of a thrill
. Something I had never seen
It was growing in strength then, and what at first was something I occasionally played with
, eventually became deep enough, and fast enough, to sweep me away. It introduced a new and growing danger. And perhaps if not for the guidance of some clan elders, I would have found myself carried away by its currents.
But by the time it had reached full strength, I had quite a few years of experience
under my belt. Those were mostly good times, and my friends and peers had taught me their own methods of dealing with the river's dangers.
We didn't know it wouldn't last
though. At least that wasn't something we thought about. Its strength and volume had been steadily increasing for as long as we could remember
and there was little reason to imagine a different scenario, though deep down we knew
anything was possible.
Eventually the river had become such a constant fixture in our lives that it became boring. There was no longer anything new
there. Technically each drop of water that came down the river was different from all the previous ones, but given the sheer numbers of them, they might as well have all been the same
We moved on. The river was left in the background and we focused on other pursuits
. We only returned there when forced to. It was no longer a source
of fun or excitement.
Years passed. We didn't notice it
at first, but the river banks had began to recede. The waters no longer flowed as fast, but it was still enough
for our needs. Even when we did notice, it wasn't cause for alarm
. In many ways, it was better. There was less danger now, less threat of drowning, even less random possessions accidentally falling in and being lost forever.
More years passed, and our lives moved on in still more directions
. Eventually we did start to worry
about the future of the river. There were years when it was down to a tiny trickle
, barely a stream, much less a river. As opposed to drowning, the opposite danger appeared. A real fear of drought began to grip our community.
Some days, we even fought one another
for the right to access it, much to our personal shame. Eventually we were forced to find alternatives, rather than rely so much on our once mighty river, now barely comparable to what it was in its glory days
On occasion, some among us were even forced to gather necessary moisture by chewing on leaves. Our diets were forced to change, and with it, our lifestyles. We needed alternative methods of obtaining vital nutrients. Fortunately, we had many among us
who came up with those alternatives.
Happily, it still rained once in a while. It reminded me of the days we once had, splashing and playing without a care in the world
, in the river that was no longer a river
. We heard rumors of an ocean
hundreds of miles from where we were, but going there was only a pipe dream. We had neither the ability nor the resources to make such a trip possible. We could only make do with the best we had, where we were
There were nights I would dream of falling
deep into water, submerging myself beneath the surface, and reveling in the memories of our past
. Those dreams always ended in disappointment when I woke. I tried hard to see the dreams as pleasant experiences to treasure
, rather than as reminders of things lost
I tried to forget. Reminding myself of things I would never have again
was not something I wanted to do. We had moved on from the river before, we could do it again. The first time was out of boredom. Now it was out of necessity
I knew other communities who were not as blessed as we were, even if it was only for a short time in our lives
. They had already found different ways to live, different ways to survive. I used to pity them for the things they lacked
, but not anymore.
Now I had to follow in their footsteps, learn the things they had learned long ago, things that were now automatic for them. We didn't prioritize it at the time, because we always had the river. There even used to be times of flooding we had to deal with. Now those days seemed like luxuries we would never experience again
Maybe I would never quite make peace
with what we had lost, but there was no choice now but to move on. I still tell stories
about our once mighty river to our children. Maybe one day those stories would reach the ears of another community who thinks what they have would last forever
. Maybe they would take a step back to imagine themselves losing the very things that define them, and celebrate just a little bit more
, even if they couldn't quite know what was worth celebrating.
No, I wouldn't say we're unhappy now. We're just different
. But if I could spend one more day in my 23rd year, it would be spent mostly underwater. I suppose the 23-year-old version of myself would rather be doing something completely different today, but I can't imagine what
Ever blind to what I have and focusing on things I don't
, but what I wouldn't give for another taste of that water once again.