The water is as clear as glass. It splashes and sparkles in the brief sunshine that squeezes between low-slung clouds, and in those few summery moments, the creek appears as merry and graceful as a dancer.
To call it a ‘creek’ does it a disservice. That small word diminishes this waterway’s grandeur and power; its importance to the landscape; and its relevance to the discussion of conservation and quality of life. This waterway has danced and bubbled over these polished stones for thousands of years – it is ancient, but perpetually renewed. On all sides, trees reach down their thirsty roots and draw life from the water. As they have done for generations, ferns and moss snuggle along the banks, lush with moisture. Trout, salmon, otters, mink, bears, cougars, mice, squirrels, ravens, jays, crows, thrush, red-wing blackbirds, orb spiders, Pacific tree frogs, voles, newts, beetles… the list goes on and on and on, all of the creatures that rely on this water to survive.
And we are part of that list, too. We are part of that cycle, even though we try to forget it.
Accepting our role as part of the ecosystem hits us hard, reinforces our beautiful smallness and our mortality. The water moves forever down channels – whether creeks or rivers or stomachs or cells – but we have only a few precious moments to sit on the rocks and watch it flow by, and delight in the quiet determination of the creek.
This four-day walk of ours along the length of the creek, from source to mouth, has affected us deeply. Following its course is like watching a life, birth to death. But at the same time, the water always keeps flowing, day and night, an unstoppable spirit following the route outlined by the rocks. It is both a fragile and a powerful force; it is both fierce and nourishing to the complex web of life around it. The physical aspects that we see of the creek, the landscape and curves and depths and stones, are only a guide. The creek is more than just a blue line on a map. It reaches far under the soil, percolating into the roots, misting up into the air. The creek is a nurturing parent, far older than the oldest trees along its bank, and it has seen the rise and demise of civilizations.
To call it a ‘creek’ is an insult. It is not a creek. It is the heartbeat of the world.