Jean Croker Petke

River or Pond?

River or Pond?

This week I’ve been thinking about the rivers I’ve seen and known:

The Columbia and the Snake in the Pacific Northwest

The Colorado, winding through the Grand Canyon

The Ohanapecosh near Mt. Rainier

The Missouri in Montana, traveled by Lewis & Clark

The Ganges at Benares, India

The Tennessee and the Holston in northeast Tennessee

The Pigeon  and the French Broad in western North Carolina

The Mississippi at Memphis and St. Louis and Clinton, Iowa, and all the way to Minnesota


You probably have a list much longer than mine. What’s important is not which rivers you know or how many, but that you know a river of some kind.

What intrigues me about rivers is that they just keep flowing — they never stop. I know there are some exceptions to this, but it’s mostly true. The water I’m seeing today is not the water that was here yesterday. Always working its way to the ocean. Forever.

On its way to the sea, it erodes the earth, churning the dirt and sediment, depositing some of it in other places. The river slowly wears away the rocks, century after century, until a canyon begins to form. The river is always working on the rocks.

Engineers have tried to tame the rivers with dams and harness their power to electrify our homes and cities. But even dams don’t always control the water. Rivers sometimes defy our best intentions as they continually provide habitat for fish and other creatures.

Here’s the thing. Rivers keep moving. Always. They refuse to stop in place, like a pond.

If this water is metaphor, my choice, most often, has been to be like the river. Moving and changing, churning away at life’s rocks, working around obstacles, forging a path into new territory, and being supportive of lives I touch.

Of course there are pond times — times to be still, to ponder (yes, I see the connection!), to meditate, to restore one’s energy, to reflect on past times, and dream of future times. Pond time is a respite from lives that are crammed full and overly busy. But pond time is temporary. To stay here is to keep life as it has always been, and to settle into some kind of comfort that begs not to be disturbed.

River time, on the other hand, is energized into action, seeking learning, creating solutions, trying new things, moving beyond where you’ve been, and refusing to be exactly the same as you were yesterday.

You see, a river refuses to stop, even when the rocks are too hard, the obstacles are too great, the weather is too severe, and when others work to divert its energy. The river finds a way to always be the river.

Pond or river — it’s your choice.

A man grows tired while standing still . . . so says a Chinese proverb. Perhaps it has relevance to our discussion here. To be a pond, as a lifestyle, can be a wearisome avoidance of life-giving action. Being a river means thriving, no matter your circumstance.

Until next Tuesday . . .


4 Comments - Leave a Comment
  • Ruth Smith -

    This reminded me of the river Yapacani in Bolivia. It was a ridiculous scene as one from a cartoon. There was this large bridge on dry land, the river that was supposed to cross had switched courses. Rivers have a mind of their own, difficult to control, beautiful and graceful. I like rivers, but I miss my ocean. Oh, do I miss the blue ocean with white foamy waves. In my youth whenever I was troubled I would go to one of the Spanish forts in Old San Juan and just gaze at the ocean for hours. It never failed to calm my spirit.

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