Norman Maclean’s classic novella A River Runs Through It is not a book I would normally pick up, as it’s about fly fishing, a topic that I would expect not to interest me. I read last year it in preparation for a trip to Montana, and I am grateful that I gave it a chance, as it turned out to be about so much more than fly fishing. I have not been able to stop thinking about it. I’ve nearly memorized this quote:
“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”
― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It
This short book contains so much. One thing I loved is how the descriptions of fly fishing sound like the state of flow. According to Wikipedia, “In essence, flow is characterized by the complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting transformation in one’s sense of time.” I can relate to this feeling because I have occasionally had it while taking photographs, usually with my macro lens (not always with great results). I love the almost literal relationship in the book of the state of flow to the flow of water.
The book also resonated with me because I grew up on the Hudson River and still live nearby. It’s where I go when I need to put my life in perspective. When I was a child, I would marvel at how the river had seen so much, good and bad, and it just continued to flow on through it all. That gave me strength then and still does.
A few years ago, when my daughter and I drove across the US. I felt a sense of home near every river we crossed.