Every morning, when I step outside the cottage for a closer look at the river, it's generally the upstream view that first garners my attention.
Why? What prompts such preferential behavior?
After all, I have a choice—upstream or downstream. Both directions afford similar, quarter-mile stretches to scan before the stream disappears from sight around a bend. And I'd be hard pressed to choose one setting over the other as being more visually interesting—or think it any more likely to be frequented by the usual array of birds and riverine critters I such delight in watching.
Moreover, I'm already facing downstream as I exit the door, which is located on the building's side end nearest the river. Before I can gaze all the way upstream, I must first take a couple of paces to the right and swing around the corner of the house.
Yet when I go out, I'm nonetheless apt, initially, to do little more than give the downstream water a brief and passing glance—unless something interesting catches my eye.
Again…why? If the two river views are physically equal, photogenically comparable, and uniform in their potential attraction to wildlife, shouldn't my daily first views be fairly evenly divided?
Having mused over this seeming conundrum a while, I've come to suspect the answer lies tangled somewhere amid a murky mix of history, philosophy, and metaphor.
As a lifelong stream fisherman who's cast his flies and ultralight lures on creeks, rivers, and purling brooks all over North America, and who admittedly seldom met a piece of running water he didn't long to explore—from ultimate merging with other waters to birthing source as a bubbling spring or mountain rill—I've almost always done my angling and investigating in an upstream direction. I'm doubtless programmed by personal history to gravitate to the upstream view.
Philosophically, in spite of my regular whining, I'm more optimist than pessimist, a glass-is-half-full fellow who tries to look ahead. The upstream view is, in physical fact, an early look at whatever is traveling along with the flow. Bobbing and swirling in the eddies. Slowing through the pools. Sparkling as it tumbles and chatters down the riffles. Moving water, heading my way, bringing all sorts of interesting gifts.
And finally, moving waters all possess an honest and beautiful capacity, metaphorically, for poignantly illustrating and illuminating that restless earthly passage we call our life. I hope a day's first look is made upstream because the joy I find in being blessed with another morning somehow sparks the courage to face my immediate future.