As a teenager, I lived further away, but when I could drive, I started going back. Through my tumultuous adolescence the river was the constant. I was, and continue to be, moved by the first part of the song "Just Around the Riverbend" from Disney's Pocahontas, although the rest of the movie has long since lost favor with me. What I love most about rivers is / you can't step in the same river twice.
As a child, I went to the river to play. Play time with both my parents together was always rare, even when they were both part of the same household, because we were working poor and working poor people don't get a lot of play time. But we still went out to the park regularly, and when we did, we went to the river.
As a teenager, I went to the river to pray. It was a quiet place, usually free from people and even often free of any sign of them. The park and the river were both remarkably clean most of the time. I would go to the river and pray to the god I believed in, and when I climbed back up through the decomposing leaves and spongy earth, I felt peace.
Later, I would continue making time to go there, and as I felt less and less inclined to pray to god I began speaking to the river itself, and to the small midwestern forest it fed. For a summer, I worked at a camp nearby, and many of the activities I led involved wading and swimming the creek I'd been connected to since I was so young. Sharing that space and how much I valued it with children felt evangelical. It felt like communion. In many ways, it was.