By Nelli Williams
Saturday winter mornings in our house are usually jolted into motion by a bright-eyed toddler and not-so sleepy Kindergartener shouting, ”C’mon mommy play!” with flapping arms and mini-dances of excitement. Despite a long week at work, I give in with little resistance. In the mind of a 3-year-old, play can’t wait for five more minutes of sleep, a hot cup of tea, starting the wood stove or even letting the dog out.
We start with legos, then our favorite board games. In one of the few moments of pause, I look out on our snowy deck and day dream a bit. I feel the urge to throw the fam, gear, and dog in the truck hook up the boat and go to the river. I want to be on the river. I need to be on the river.
But not for the reasons I used to. I used to be on the river for peace, for roadtrip adventure with my husband and all that come with them, for the satisfaction of finally hitting that perfect cast, or for the thrill of a tug on the line and the flip of a fin as the fish swims free again. But not anymore … or at least not as much. This year I am desperate to get on the river to watch my kids explore the things I hold close to my heart. I want to watch them throw rocks and sticks into the river to see if they sink or float. I want to tag along as they wander the gravel bars in search of treasures — a special rock, a bleached salmon vertebrae, a piece of driftwood shaped like a snake.
I want to hear their squeals of excitement when we get a fish to the boat or when we see a bear on the bank. I want to teach them to love the river. I want to look at the river through my son’s and daughter’s eyes, feel it through fresh fingers and process it through the raw, immediate emotional psyche that kids just naturally do. I want to forget the winter routine of laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning and weekend catch-up and just be on the river with my family. Thankfully, the snow is melting, the days are getting long and gravelbar season is right around the corner.
Nelli Willliams is the director of TU’s Alaska Program. She lives and works in Anchorage.