Dear resolute people of Pittsburgh,
The rivers that travel through our city, we all know them. While they seem ever-present, the water only skims along our riverbeds for fleeting moments, continuing on to points warmer and further west.
Today is New Year’s Day, and just like the waters that pass us by, another year has come and gone. Some may say good riddance to 2021, just as many did to the year before it, as we continue to careen through a pandemic that mutates and spikes like Godzilla gone white-water rafting.
But there are also more literal white-water adventures that are on my mind today. Nearly every year of my boyhood, my father would take me to Ohiopyle to ride the Youghiogheny River rapids. We were by no means experts, but we’d welcome the high water that came with the springtime.
One teenage June, I remember getting tossed out of the boat at Eddy Turn or Dimple Rock, and carried along the course of the river like some kind of flotsam. Now, the Yough flows into the Monongahela, and I remember my father joking with me (while I was still abob) to “hop in back in the boat, otherwise I’ll have to pick you up back in Pittsburgh.”
My point is that, as much as New Year’s Day is a relief of what’s now behind us, it’s really more about what’s coming down the chute — and committing to throwing ourselves into that unknowable future with hope.
Just as the currents flow on down the Ohio into the Mississippi and out into the expansive sea, the tiny headwaters of the Youghiogheny will arrive before we know it, rushing along the riverbanks of McKeesport and Homestead and so on.
Walt Whitman wrote, “I accept time absolutely … It alone rounds and completes all.” I hear him saying that the more time between us and misfortune, the duller the edge; but also that we will be filled up with the unstoppable currents that are coming our way.
So, I wish you a happy 2022. May you ride the rapids as deftly as a Class V Youghiogheny River guide.