The Elkhorn and Blackfoot rivers are not only where Norman, Paul, and their father fish, but these bodies of water structure their sense of place and lend Norman, in particular, a way of thinking about life’s metaphorical course. Norman often marvels at the geological origin of these rivers, how they were formed with the release of a massive glacial dam that used to spread over the entire Pacific Northwest, cutting their way through mountains as the glaciers receded and left their imprint on the lines in the surrounding mountains today. Rivers are far more ancient, and more lasting, than any human’s life. But Norman is able to find resonance between their sharp turns, deposits, and quiet pools and the similarly variegated paths of a human life. In terms of Paul’s life, in particular, rivers symbolize both life’s discernible patterns and the inherent mysteriousness of these patterns. The meaning of these patterns is not always readily apparent, and indeed, may not be discernible at all by a human mind. Norman can only wonder at and respect these patterns rather than seeking to reveal their inner workings.
Rivers Quotes in A River Runs Through It
On the river the heat mirages danced with each other and then they danced through each other and then they joined hands and danced around each other. Eventually the watcher joined the river, and there was only one of us. I believe it was the river.
Even the anatomy of a river was laid bare. Not far downstream was a dry channel where the river had run once, and part of the way to come to know a thing is through its death. But years ago I had known the river when it flowed through this now dry channel, so I could enliven its stony remains with the waters of memory.
It was here, while waiting for my brother, that I started this story, although, of course, at the time I did not know that stories of life are often more like rivers than books. But I knew a story had begun, perhaps long ago near the sound of water. And I sensed that ahead I would meet something that would never erode so there would be a sharp turn, deep circles, a deposit, and quietness.
Then he told me, “In the part I was reading it says the Word was in the beginning, and that’s right. I used to think water was first, but if you listen carefully you will hear that the words are underneath the water.”
“That’s because you are a preacher first and then a fisherman,” I told him. “If you ask Paul, he will tell you that the words are formed out of water.”
“No,” my father said, “you are not listening carefully. The water runs over the words. Paul will tell you the same thing.”
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.