Author: Cornish, Rick

The Riverís Risiní
 

What Iím doing these days is working on a transition from partially retired, (working two days per week) to completely retired (giving the whole damned thing up). Itís been hard. Iíve read, and Iím inclined to believe, that some people, folks with not the greatest self-esteem.....tend to identify strongly with their career. That is to say, I AM what I do for a livingÖ.my person, my being, is my career. So when the career goes, as in retirement, kiss the I AM goodbye. Or something like that. So itís been tough.

Wait, donít stop reading. Thereís bluegrass content here. Hang in.

Iím transitioning from running an educational software company to making picture frames and coffee tables. (Which is something of an irony, now that I think of it, because forty-plus years ago, I was making coffee tables and picture frames when I transitioned into a serious job in education.) The story I want to tell you happens because the time of the transition is winterÖ..very, very cold up here in the mountains during the winter. In order to be able to work in the wood-working shop Iíve built in my barn, (really, in order just to step inside of whatís a kind of natural ice-box) requires heat from a wood-burning stove, so this fall I installed one. Feeding the stove is, even for this city boy, a pretty straightforward thing when you live on six forested acres. So a few days ago I took my truck, chainsaw, axe, etc, down into the forest to harvest some fuel for the new shop stove.

Most of the trees are live oak, but along the driveway thereís an ancient fig tree thatís needed cutting back for probably decades so I decide to start there. Lots of dead, dry limbs, not great for wood burning, but certainly burnable. After a little priming and three or four tugs on the rope, the chainsaw fires up and I slice through an eight inch fig limb. And what happens next amazes me. From the two and a half inch hole at the center of each of the now separated limbs pour out hundreds of wriggling, reddish-brown ants. Theyíre huge, three times the size of regular little black city ants, and they fall in clumps to the ground. Iím stunned for a second. Then I sit back on the bank and watch as the ants, some with wings and some with no wings, continue to pour out of the hollowed out limb. As they hit the ground they seem disoriented, kind of staggering in one direction and then the next. (ĎIím the one thatís shocked?í, I think, Ďwhat about these poor ants? Been peacefully living in this old fig tree for thirty or forty years and then, WOMP, ant worldís turned upside down.)

I sat for a while and watched the ants. I was in awe of the vast and teaming universe just moments before hidden inside the tree limb. And I was saddened, maybe even feeling a little guilty, by the frenetic scene of confusion and disorientation on the ground before me. Now in the thousands, the little creatures just stumbled about in no particular direction, with no particular place to go. And as I sat, a song came to mind, one of my favorites by the Seldom Scene, a song called Muddy Water that I sang on stage at Grass Valley more than twenty-five years ago..

Mary, grab the baby, the river's rising
Muddy water taking back the land
The old-frame house, she can't take-a one more beating
Ain't no use to stay and make a stand

Well the morning light shows water in the valley
Daddy's grave just went below the line
Things to say, you just can't take em with ya
This flood will swallow all you've left behind
Won't be back to start all over
Cause what I felt before is gone

Mary, take the child, the river's rising
Muddy water taking back my home
The road is gone, there's just one way to leave here
Turn my back on what I've left below
Shifting land, broken farms around me
Muddy water's changing all I know

It's hard to say just what I'm losing
Ain't never felt so all alone

Mary, take the child, the river's rising
Muddy water taking back my home

Won't be back to start all over
Cause what I felt before is gone

Mary, take the child, the river's rising
Muddy water's changing all I know
Muddy water's changing all I know
Well, this muddy water is taking back my home

This was the antís flood. Instead of the water, the chain saw had taken all they knew, and somehow theyíd have to start all overÖ.get reorientedÖ.get a plan and start to rebuild. As I sat on the bank a light rain started to fall. My life had changed, too, almost over night. For over forty years Iíd blinked awake each morning with one thought on my mind. To make a buck, build a career, take care of my family. Now, I thought as droplets of water began to run down the frames of my glasses, Iím back to coffee tables and starting all over.


 
Posted:  1/11/2011



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