“As the evening approached, the channel grew more narrow; the banks more and more precipitous; and these later were clothed in richer, more profuse, and more somber foliage. The water increased in transparency. The stream took a thousand turns, so that at no moment could its gleaming surface be seen for a greater distance than a furlong. At every instant the vessel seemed imprisoned with an enchanted surface, having insuperable and impenetrable walls of foliage, a roof of ultra-marine satin, and no floor…The channel now became a gorge…the crystal water welled up against clean granite, or the unblemished moss, with a sharpness of outline that delighted while it bewildered the eye.”
– Edgar Allan Poe, Domain of Arnheim
How do you describe a river to someone who has never known one?
The Hudson River, a thing of beauty, of nature, of history; a river with as many narratives as bends in its journey from dewy moss droplets to titanic sea. It is a river steeped in meaning – it is a bountiful river, a strategic river, a sacred river, a perilous river, a chameleon river, a river of controversy, a river of commerce, a river of reprieve, a river of conscience, a river that mirrors, a river that brings together and tears apart. It is a river that is constantly doing. The Hudson is a river of change and relations – since its birth as a ‘drowned river’ it has sculpted the landscape around it and been sculpted by it. The billion-year-old Storm King Mountain that buttresses the river’s side has yielded to its power, and plant and animal life have emerged and disintegrated along its shores and in its waters. People have been drawn to its resources and battles have been raged over it. It has helped build a nation, and it has assisted in the devastation of its own inhabitants. It has cultivated the arts, it has spurned growth, it has been a harbinger of decline. The Hudson River is a thing that is more than beauty, more than nature, and more than history. Its agency spills out over its edges and its thing-power resides in its many variations over space, time, and imaginations. By looking at, listening to, reminiscing about, imagining towards, speaking out about, asking questions of, intermingling with, and writing about the river, I think we can learn something simplistically important about the way things go. Perhaps we can also experience how creativity flows, the interconnectedness of things, and the way we are bound up in things and things are bound up in us.