GNL number 110

a report of doings at meeting #110, Sunday, September 11, 2016

including liturgical items, major themes, and other odds and ends


Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such things as time? That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean, and in the mountains, everywhere, and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past, not the shadow of the future.

~~~Herman Hesse, Siddhartha


Sue opened today’s conversation on Rivers with the fruits of her research on word origin and meanings, and a fine batch of quotes. Then she spoke of the great, ancient human civilizations borne of rivers, like those around the Nile, and the Tigris/Euphrates Rivers, and then of India’s sacred river, the Ganges (in which our friend Vijaya always bathes when she returns). She noted river as metaphor for many systems of life, like blood, and noticed her own pleasure in even the bubbling ditch by her road. See AFTERWORDS for her N and Q.

Marge said she wasn’t prepared, but turns out she has personal knowledge of rivers near and far. She and her husband are so well-traveled that she had ridden in boats on the Nile and on the Amazon, and could even report, who would think, seeing pink dolphins in the latter. Marge also told us about the Schoharie River Center, which they have visited in Burtonsville several times, and which has science programs, eg, water studies, youth environmental-study teams, archaeology field school. (and sounded like a good field trip…)

Gail spoke of the wonderful drive she, her mom, and Virginia made a few years ago down through the Susquehanna-Chesapeake Watershed—from its beginning at Cooperstown’s Otsego Lake all the way to Chesapeake Bay, a trip all three loved. And which she said made vividly clear how a river is a system feeding and forming the land around it. She is also one who likes to get on the water in a boat, and has been kayaking area waterways, especially the Mohawk River, with Ann.

We were delighted to have that young lady, Virginia, with us today; and she told us about some of her experiences with waterways, including a memorable one riding in a waterwheel- driven flatboat. And she showed us the lovely little notebook she had from the trip they’d done when she was about seven, with a picture she’d made of the water, and a variety of flower and other plant samples she’d picked up in the area.

Ann gave us a little lexicon of waters that move—streams of different kinds (and said her comments were also kind of a stream of consciousness). She told of being at the Albany Port Authority yesterday for the anti-pipeline demonstration; then spoke of her years of kayaking on the Mohawk/Barge Canal, and then about the Canal system itself, and its later relative, the canal bike path. Both she and Gail remarked on the wonderful, restful feeling of that kayaking, in the gently moving water. See AW for her N and Q.

Nancy said rivers had been formative to the two places she’s lived most of her life, first as a child in Herkimer County, where the Mohawk is the main physical feature, and then here in this county where the Schoharie is the major presence. But early in her thinking about the topic, she noticed that there is a lot of music about rivers. So she brought several songs, and with the group’s indulgence, she sang bits of these—a mix of old folk, spiritual, recent. And when it came to that real old favorite, The Erie Canal, the gang joined in heartily. (See AW.)

We agreed to direct our offering today to the Schoharie River Center, in Burtonsville.


We must begin thinking like a river if we are to leave a legacy of beauty and life for future generations.

—–David Brower


Sunday, October 9, 2016 (1030), at Marge’s house, 113 Prospect Street, Cobleskill. The subject is BOOKS—Fiction, Non-Fiction, Kids’, Old, New, etal.


from Sue

River–word origins:
river (n.)
early 13c., from Anglo-French rivere, Old French riviere “river, riverside, river bank” (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *riparia “riverbank, seashore, river” (source also of Spanish ribera, Italian riviera), noun use of fem. of Latin riparius “of a riverbank” (see riparian). Generalized sense of “a copious flow” of anything is from late 14c. The Old English word was ea “river,” cognate with Gothic ahwa, Latin aqua (see aqua-). Romanic cognate words tend to retain the sense “river bank” as the main one, or else the secondary Latin sense “coast of the sea” (compare Riviera).
U.S. slang phrase up the river “in prison” (1891) is originally in reference to Sing Sing prison, which was literally “up the (Hudson) river” from New York City. Phrase down the river “done for, finished” perhaps echoes sense in sell down the river (1851), originally of troublesome slaves, to sell from the Upper South to the harsher cotton plantations of the Deep South.

rive (v.) Look up rive at
“tear in pieces, strike asunder,” c. 1200, from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse rifa “to tear apart” (compare Swedish rifva, Danish rive “scratch, tear”), from PIE root *rei- “to scratch, tear, cut” (see riparian).
riparian (adj.) Look up riparian at
“of or pertaining to river banks,” 1849, with -an + Latin riparius “of a river bank,” from riparia “shore,” later used in reference to the stream flowing between the banks, from ripa “(steep) bank of a river, shore,” probably literally “break” (and indicating the drop off from ground level to the stream bed), or else “that which is cut out by the river,”
from PIE root *rei- “to scratch, tear, cut” (source also of Greek ereipia “ruins,” eripne “slope, precipice;” Old Norse rifa “break, to tear apart;” Danish rift “breach,” Middle High German rif “riverbank, seashore;” English riven, rift).
arrive, derive,


  • “I choose to listen to the river for a while, thinking river thoughts, before joining the night and the stars.” — (Edward Abbey)
  • “Men may dam it and say that they have made a lake, but it will still be a river. It will keep its nature and bide its time, like a caged animal alert for the slightest opening. In time, it will have its way; the dam, like the ancient cliffs, will be carried away piecemeal in the currents.” — (Wendell Berry)
  • “Any river is really the summation of the whole valley. To think of it as nothing but water is to ignore the greater part.” — (Hal Borland, This Hill, This Valley)
  • “The mark of a successful man is one that has spent an entire day on the bank of a river without feeling guilty about it.” — (Chinese philosopher)

“He thought his happiness was complete when, as he meandered aimlessly along, suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed river. Never in his life had he seen a river before—this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again. All as a-shake and a-shiver—glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble. The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spellbound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.” — (Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows)

“Time is an enormous, long river, and I’m standing in it, just as you’re standing in it. My elders are the tributaries, and everything they thought and every struggle they went through and everything they gave their lives to, and every song they created, and every poem that they laid down flows down to me – and if I take the time to ask, and if I take the time to see, and if I take the time to reach out, I can build that bridge between my world and theirs. I can reach down into that river and take out what I need to get through this world”
BRIDGES, from my time to your time . . .as my elders from their time to my time. And we all put into the river and…we let it go.
And it flows away from us and it flows away from us . . . until it no longer has our name, our identity. It has its own utility, its own use, and people take what they need and make it part of their lives.”
~Utah Phillips “Bridges” on CD The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere, with Ani DiFranco,-74,792

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Heraclitus
“The river flows at its own sweet will, but the flood is bound in the two banks. If it were not thus bound, its freedom would be wasted.” Vinoba Bhave

Other info: Wikipedia

from Ann

Some research:

  • River, stream, brook, creek, rivulet (a small stream), canal, channel, falls, and strait
  • Streams: stream, streamliner, jet stream, gulf stream, live stream, stream of consciousness, streaming ramparts. To move forward in a body with a continuous motion, ie, a crowd streamed forward. A steady flow, of water, gas, air
  • River: a large stream as in rivers of oil. A natural stream of water larger than a brook or a creek, especially a primary stream directly, as from a spring, and not fed by a tributary..
  • Brook: A stream of water smaller than a river or a creek, especially a primary system directly, as from a spring, and not fed by a tributary.
  • Creek: A stream of water smaller than a river and larger than a brook.
  • Strait: A (comparatively) narrow passageway connecting two large bodies of water.
    Dire straits, a distressful, restrictive situation.
  • The Nile—In the ancient Egyptian language, the Nile is called H’pi or Iteru, meaning river.
    The English name Nile and the Arabic names en-Nil and an-Nil both derive from the Latin Nilus and the ancient Greek. Beyond that, however, the etymology is disputed. One possible etymology derives it from a Semitic Nahal, meaning river.
  • Songs: Erie Canal, Ol’ Man River, Rollin’ on the River.
  • Movie: Wild River, about the Tennessee Valley Authority (with Montgomery Clift and Lee Remick)

from Nancy


A good river is nature’s life work in song.
~~~Mark Helprin

Even the upper end of the river believes in the ocean.
~~~William Stafford

If you dam a river, it stagnates. Running water is beautiful water. So be a channel.
~~~English proverb


The Water is Wide (Waly Waly)—traditional

The water is wide, I cannot cross over
and neither have I wings to fly,
Build me a boat that can carry two,
and both shall row, my true love and I.

Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song)—-traditional
(featured in Coen Bros. movie, Inside Llewyn Davis)

If I had wings like Noah’s dove,
I’d fly the river to the one I love,
Fare thee well, my Honey,
Fare thee well.

The river is muddy,
it’s muddy and wild,
can’t give a bloody
for my unborn child.
Fare thee well, my Honey,
Fare thee well.

Down to the River to Pray —–traditional
(featured in Coen Bros. movie O Brother, Where Art Thou)

As I went down to the river to pray
Studyin’ about that good old way,
And who shall wear the starry crown?
Good Lord, show me the way.

O sisters, let’s go down,
Let’s go down, Come on down,
O sisters, let’s go down,
Down to the river to pray.

Nova Scotia Farewell —–traditional

Farewell to Nova Scotia, the sea-bound coast,
May your mountains dark and dreary be,
For when I am far away on the briny ocean tossed,
Will you ever heave a sigh and a wish for me?

Shenandoah —–traditional

O Shenandoah, I long to see you,
Away, you rollin’ river,
O Shenandoah, I long to see you,
Away, we’re bound away—
Across the wide Missouri.

The Erie Canal —–traditional

I’ve got a mule and her name is Sal,
15 miles on the Erie Canal,
She’s a good old worker and a good old pal,
15 miles…..

We’ve hauled some barges in our day,
filled with lumber, coal and hay,
and we know every inch of the way
from Albany to Buffalo.

Low bridge, everybody down,
Low bridge, for we’re going to a town—
and you’ll always know your neighbor,
you’ll always know your pal
if you’ve ever navigated on the Erie Canal.

Wade in the Water —–traditional spiritual

Wade in the water, wade in the water, Children,
Wade in the water, God’s gonna trouble the water.

Who’s that yonder dressed in red,
Wade in the water,

Must be the children that Moses led,
God’s gonna trouble the water.

Deep River —–traditional spiritual

Deep river, my home is over Jordan,
Deep river, Lord, I want to cross over
into camp ground.

When I get to Heaven, I’ll walk about,
There’s nobody there to turn me out.

We’re in the Same Boat, Brother
(by Huddie Ledbetter—“Leadbelly”, 20th c.)

We’re in the same boat, Brother (2x)
And if you shake one end,
You gonna rock the other—
It’s the same boat, Brother (2x)

O the Lord looked down from his holy place,
Said Lordy-me, what a sea of space!
What a spot to launch the human race!
So He built Him a boat for a mixed-up crew,
With eyes of black and Brown and Blue,
And that’s how come that you and I
Got just one world and just one sky—
We’re in the same boat, Brother (2x)

O the boat rolled on, through storm and grief,
Hit many a rock and many a reef,
What kept them going was a great belief:
That the human race was a special freight,
So they had to learn to navigate;
If they didn’t want to be in Jonah’s shoes,
Better be mated on this here cruise—Why?
We’re in the Same Boat, Brother (2x)

Crossing Muddy Waters
(by John Hiatt, 20th c.)

My baby’s gone and I don’t know why,
She let out this morning
Like a rusty shot in a hollow sky,
Left me without warning,
Sooner than the dogs could bark
and faster than the sun rose
Down to the banks in an old mule car
she took a flatboat across the shallow.

Left me in my tears to drown
She left a baby daughter,
Now the water’s wide and deep and brown
She’s crossing muddy waters.

Dock of the Bay
(by Otis Redding and Steve Cropper, 20th c)

Sittin’ in the mornin’ sun,
I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ comes,
Watchin’ the ships roll in
And I watch ’em roll away again.

Sittin’ on the dock of the bay,
Watchin’ the tide roll away,
Sittin’ on the dock of the bay,
Wastin’ time.

I left my home in Georgia,
Headed for the Frisco Bay—
I have nothin’ to live for,
Looks like nothin’s gonna come my way.

Looks like nothin’s gonna change,
Everything still remains the same,
I can’t do what ten people tell me to do,
So I guess I’ll remain the same

Sittin’ here restin’ my bones
Wish this loneliness would leave me alone,
2000 miles I roam,
Just to make this dock my home.


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