The river above here is largely unknown, the climb is difficult and the road passes near enough to provide a view, satisfying most. The river has been explored by government mappers up to the headwaters, looking for mineral deposits and to complete maps, but it remains unknown nevertheless. The illusion has been sustained, if one asks around or consults a topographical map, that it is well-known, but I know this to be false. For example, at the headwaters itself, further up than is shown, there are herons. At night they weep, a inconsolable grief, and it is from these tears the river is formed.
Further downstream from here, the murmurs of fish enter, and the water feels like cold steel, impenetrable like certain shades of deep blue, the sound of a crack working it's way through a china plate. It is from this, the imagined but uncared for, that the river takes form, visible water, of measurable dimension.
In recent years I have spent considerable time upstream, along what I believe to be an unknown section of the river. I have meant to examine things closely there, and sometimes I think I have the answer and gone gleefully ahead, only to haul myself back to an ordered course. In this way I saw a house one day, perched at the start of the forested hill above the river.
It was painted gray, with blue cape cod style shutters. A broad porch, shadowed by the limbs of a cottonwood. A white porcelain doorknob opened the French door. The floors were oak parquet, the rooms spacious with hemp rugs. The walls were papered with Cockerell marbled paper, from England, the colors somewhere between primary and pastel, like the taste of a peach bursting on your tongue.
One fall I entered a room for the first time, and saw a book sitting on a windowsill, open and face down. A single chair was next to the window, as though the occupant had just left to brew tea. I sat down and read the book, a language I didn't know, in hopes of understanding.
There was a woman's bed, with a brass bedstead and a chenille spread, somehow light was always falling on it. We would lay there, trusting, and fall asleep in the afternoon.
We would dance, the only sound of our bare feet on the wood floor. An imagined music filling the room without echoes, strands of her hair stuck to my cheek, the sound of our breathing.
In that time I do not remember ever being away from the river, though I know I was. Even now in the memory of it I do not know where I am. I know I still spend time in the upper part of the river and that relationship I know to be true.
Still further up the river are the unfolding of other relationships, together with the loss of the promise of anything to be found. I have been told that this is the reason no one goes up that far, though the promise, in it's way, is kept.
It is the walk home that is terrifying.