The River is My Comfort Food
“Home isn’t where you’re from, it’s where you find light when all grows dark.” Pierce Brown
I grew up in New England near the meeting of the Housatonic River and Long Island Sound. I sailed them both and tanned on the beaches. Outside my bedroom window, a brook broke the silence of the woods.
The Contoocook River flowed through my college town, and then I moved a block from where the Piscataqua River mixes with the Atlantic Ocean. Eight years later and ten miles up the road, the Lamprey River and its falls and rapids were my home for swimming, canoeing, skating, and cross-country skiing. For a few years in between, I watched the Hudson River move south towards Manhattan.
For 30 years, I’ve lived in the desert of the southern Rocky Mountains. It’s not surprising I’m close to the Rio Grande. It is not as grande as the name implies, but it is a flowing rio.
Childhood foods soothe us when we are in pain. They remind us of home, a place of warmth and stability for most of us. Home is a foundation to draw from as we grow up, move away, and learn to take care of ourselves.
When old wounds surface, my self-care can be spaghetti with butter and Parmesan cheese, roasted chicken, or strawberry ice cream, but more often I end up at the river. It’s not that I go there, it’s that I am drawn there. Something pulls me down into the canyon and asks me to explore its ancient geology, and to sit quietly on the edge of the river and listen and contemplate.
Water is healing. I don’t need to read scientific studies that prove it. I can feel it. If it weren’t, why would the river beckon to me in dark times?
The Rio Grande can flow gently or gush over boulders. It rises with snow melt and rain and lowers when the desert is lush and green. It’s always in flux, rippling from the wind, ducks and geese paddling, or a stone skipped across its surface. It reacts to everything that touches it.
But the river doesn’t freeze. When the landscape is deeply locked in winter, the river flows. It always moves despite the influences that try to stop it, like bitter cold and drought. It finds a way to keep moving forward to its destination. When I am locked in my own personal winter, the movement and determination of the river comfort my spirit and renew me.
Rivers have been as much a part of my life as comfort food. It’s no wonder I seek out their waters when I want to go home, when I’m yearning for the freedom and ease of being a child.
In the canyon, I devour the rio, letting it nourish me. The river is my roasted chicken.