I took this environmental class my senior year. I hated everything about it (probably because I hated everything that year), but I distinctly remember learning about this river near Cleveland called the Cuyahoga River. So polluted, it caught on fire thirteen times. Each time the firefighters would jet water into it, but that only made the fire bigger.
I couldn’t help feeling like that river: crooked, dirtied, and constantly bursting into flames. It never did what it was supposed to. It never flowed the way it should.
But then I think about the park they built there and how it’s been forty-five years since the last time it ignited. I think about the lessons it has taught us. And I think about the East River and Hudson River running along both sides of this magnificent city - about how even though neither have ever combusted into flames, they both still have patches in them where the water doesn’t move because they’re polluted too. We all start out clean, flowing, and how nature intended us to be. And somewhere along the way, we’re not anymore.
I used to blame others for jetting water into the fire, for trying to help. I used to blame myself for needing that help. But I don’t anymore, at least not all the time. And I don’t know when or how it happened but it did. I’m not angry, at least not all the time.
See, ———— loved me when I needed more than anything to feel loved in a pure, unhurt way. And ———— listened to me when I needed to feel listened to. And you taught me how to listen to myself. You taught me how to trust other people who love and listen in imperfect ways (which is most people).
What I think about now is how beautiful the Cuyahoga must have looked lit up in flames, and I just have to let it burn until it doesn’t. Because, my god, how lucky we are to be rivers at all.