The Clark Fork River and Love

The Clark Fork River and Love

“And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us, but we can still love them. We can love completely without complete understanding.” Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It. University of Chicago Press.1976.

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This past summer we were in Missoula, Montana, visiting our daughter, Joanna, and her husband, Dennis, with our oldest grandson, Mac, and his dad, John. Our hotel is right, I mean directly on the banks of Clark Fork, and the river is rapidly in real time running by our small porch on the first floor. We are mesmerized by watching the high-speed water, but it is the sound of the racing river that truly runs through us. It calms. It soothes. In its orchestral movement, it is peaceful. It sounds like a wind instrument, perhaps a distant native American flute. Sometimes it has the “Om” sound that is chanted in yoga and eastern meditation. We begin to know the stillness of sitting or standing and just observing the wonder of something too magnificent for words go by. We can become so relaxed that we fall asleep. Water, moving or still, has healing powers that we cannot understand.

Today we hear from our daughter that all of this is covered with snow, but I know the sound of the Clark Fork is still mesmerizing lives.

I have watched Robert Redford’s movie, A River Runs Through It with all of our children and most of our grandchildren. We can often quote lines in the movie and answer back the responses to each other. If you have not read the book or seen the movie, stop now because I am going to spoil it for you.

The story is about the Maclean family, a father and two sons, Norman and Paul, growing up fly-fishing in Missoula, Montana. The words quoted today are near the end of the movie preached in one of the father’s last sermons. I could almost hear Norman’s father when we rode by that same brick Presbyterian church last summer on the way to get ice cream. The father is indirectly talking about Norman’s younger brother, Paul, who died an early traumatic death related to his addictions.

As I watch and listen beside the Clark Fork where the Macleans lived and loved a century ago, I think also of those I could not understand but wanted to love completely. My prayers today are to keep trying to hear these words by Norman’s father about them. Of course. there are also those I could not understand and never even wanted to consider loving the least bit, much less completely. I pray a little more to see them in a new light.

Loving without understanding may be on the path to unconditional love, God’s love. Om.


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