All the world here was a reflection. Sky writhing in the river, green light pinging off leaf and blade, me alone on the riverbank staring inward at my years-long journey. A cool draft from the Cairngorm Mountains pounced on the River Dee, redolent with the scents of chlorophyll, wet stone, and snow. The river was narrow and jogging to the east as it gurgled and shushed to itself. Behind me the Queen’s Road, named for Queen Victoria, mirrored the Dee as I stood in the grass between them. Down the road, a group of old men in crisp fishing gear moved their mouths in a small cottage. Then, a millisecond after I snapped this photo, a silver salmon glittered in the sun as it arced through the air.
This scene stalled me on the 4-hour drive from the western Cairngorms to Stonehaven on the sea. I was running to pick up Sarah, but to where was the Dee running? Or from what did it run? I sat in the spongy grass and cast a smooth stone into the current; a soft plop returned in answer. It was foolishness, of course. Rivers don’t run toward anything, just as trees don’t grow up toward anything. They just run, grow, stretch, reach, flow. Nature is the absence of strategy, agenda, and the little negations that suffuse people. What was I running from? Fear? Loneliness? The world outside the lines? I peeled myself off the banks of the Dee imprinted with a new aspiration, like silly putty mashed into the evening newspaper: To run. To run for the simple act of running.