Altamaha Riverkeeper News

Think Like a River

By Joni House

President, Altamaha Riverkeeper

“We must begin thinking like a river if we are to leave a legacy of beauty and life for future genera- tions.” – David Brower, 1912 – 2000

Since I first encountered this quotation I’ve been puzzled by what lies beyond the poetry of the language. What did David Brower mean by “thinking like a river”? How would that be different from the way “normal” people think (not that we river lovers are abnormal)?

I have to fall back on my times on the water to even start to put on my river mind.


If I were a river I would meander. “The shortest distance between two points” approach is not a river-like trait, but it certainly characterizes much of my daily thinking. Getting projects done at work, getting chores done at home does not invite meandering. How would my world view change if I became deliberately un- deliberate and allowed my mind to find its own way along instead of making every moment a to-do list oppor- tunity?

If I were a river I would host a whole community of different critters. So where does the analogy of river = fish+turtles+frogs+snakes take me when I try to apply that to thinking like a river? Maybe it’s as sim- ple as me trying to cultivate a rivermind that nurtures and supports a lot of different things at the same time, and is all the better for doing so.

If I were a river I would always be moving. Ah yes. Mental flow like the flow of water. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow, over, under and around obstacles. Even, over time, wearing down the hardest boul-

ders that stand in its path.  It’s appealing to receive the lesson from the river of persistent but variable motion

toward an outcome. I would eagerly embrace thinking as fluidly as the Altamaha flows.


If I were a river I would reflect and absorb light. The most breathtaking moments on the water for me have been the times when the play of light makes the ordinary luminous, or deepens rich shadow so that even the darkness tugs at my heart. If only I could train my mind to do that, to join light and shadow into a more beautiful result, I might be closer to thinking like a river.

I think David Brower pegged it just right with his challenge to think like a river. Our beloved Altamaha reso- nates with each of us in her own way. Thank you for continuing to hold her dear and to help us protect and defend her fragile watershed.

Happy spring to you, our wonderful Altamaha Riverkeeper friends and supporters!

There are so many ways that you can help keep our rivers clean and beautiful. Responding to Action Alerts or reaching out to your elected representatives. Find your way to get involved!