We live in an area with lots of natural waterways, yet only one makes my heart sing: the magnificent McKenzie River. As rivers go, it’s not tremendously long (just 87 miles), but it feeds me in a way that I cannot fully explain, and am not sure that I fully understand.
I love the geology of this river. Borne of snow melt and rainfall, it originates in Clear Lake, an aptly named lake so clear you can see the submerged trees that have stood silent vigil since the lake’s creation by volcanic activity a mere 3,000 years ago. The McKenzie flows south from this lake and tumbles over huge basalt flows and eroded granite boulders, dropping 100 feet at Sahalie Falls and another 70 at Koosah Falls a short half-mile down the road. From there, the river rushes toward the Carmen Reservoir, then it vanishes below ground, seeping through the porous volcanic rock to re-emerge about three and one-half miles west at Tamolitch Pool, a clear, brilliant blue pool of icy cold water. The river continues its swift path down the mountain to the valley floor east of Springfield, then meanders west to meet up with the Willamette. There is a “fire and ice” element to this river that wraps around me; swirling energies of blue and red and black that almost lifts me off the ground.
I love the colors of this river. From crystal clear water in all shades of blue to rocks of brown, orange, and grey shimmering in the depths, and the variety of greens lining the banks, there is a stunning palette of color. The force of the water as it rushes down the rocks creates heavily oxygenated pools that are pale turquoise and full of bubbles. The shadows of the tall firs that line the river give certain pools a more stately blue-green appearance. The moss is a shot of bright green and the many twisted roots are a study in brown and white.
I love the synergy of this river. There is massive life here as seen in the abundant flora. There is also massive death here, yet every death in this river feeds other life. The living tree becomes the decaying log that creates a slow current pool or backwater where life can take root.
I love the sound of this river. The roar, the gurgle, and the splash are truly music to my soul. When I stand on the pathway between the two waterfalls, the roar is loud enough that I have to use my “outside voice” just to be heard. If I could have that sound outside my window I would never have another sleepless night. It sings: you just have to listen to hear it. There is a pool above Sahalie Falls that whispers and splashes and entices you to come and play (although I don’t advise it). It mesmerizes you and surprises you and changes every time you visit.
There are fish in this river, and my husband does his best to thin that population, but that’s not why I love it. I love this river simply because it exists; because it sings and it dances and it laughs as it rolls down to the valley. I love this river because it feeds a part of me that has felt empty for a long time, a part that the desert in which I lived for so long could not touch. I sit on the rocks along the water’s edge and I listen to the sounds, watch the play of light on the water, and know that I am home.