Joe Leonard in a Yurt

Joe Leonard 2009

Today after 70 years of a wonderful life, I have never been happier.

If I had a diamond as beautiful as this drop of dew -
I would mount it in a ring and give it to you. Or perhaps a bauble that would dangle from your lovely ear.

 

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Once I watched a rain drop fall from the sky. It landed on a leaf that I stood by.

It lay there until another rain drop joined it and they became one, slowly the two drops that had become one fell from the leaf to the earth where they joined others and became one again.

I wondered if I could separate them from each other, I realized that even if I could I would never get the same drop that made me do all this thinking.

I watched as more drops joined and as one
they began to move down the hill, towards a stream. As they became one with the stream it seemed there was something going on here, a mystery that I needed to know more about.
I followed the stream to the place where it joined the Salmon river and became one with it, the headwaters of the Salmon River, my house was on that river. I hurried home and packed some food, my kayak and gear and put in the river with the rain drops that had become one.

My wife, Sheila, ran down the river bank and asked where I was going. I said I was following a water drop to it's source, that I needed to know more.
She said she wanted to know more too.

Get the raft I yelled, fill it with food and supplies and drive to where the Middle fork of the Salmon becomes one with the Main Salmon and we will go on to it's source.

She called back why can't you wait for me?
Loudly I yelled, because I might loose track of the rain drop that started all of this. And away I went on the fast moving river.

Alas, said I, perhaps my rain drop got stuck behind a rock and is behind me. How would I know? I didn't know, I couldn't know, I couldn't tell one drop from another. Three days I went on realizing that my rain drop was far ahead because I had spent two nights on the river bank yet the river kept going on. As I approached Shoup, Idaho Sheila was waiting for me in the raft she had brought and together we continued on our journey.

We came upon a violent rapid and I watched as water jumped out of the river and became separated from the river as it disappeared in the earth. Even though it has separated itself from the river, I wondered, was it still part of the river?

One day when Sheila was rowing the raft I noticed that little drops of water would fall from the oar back to the river. Most would return to the river. But some would stay on the surface as individual drops, separate and alone.

However, it seemed inevitable that the little drops would return to the river, their source, maybe they were unable to resist. It was as if they were born off the oar and lived a life time on the surface, dancing and playing in an allusion of separateness.

They seemed to slow down in a short time, like an old man who has lost the zest of being an individual, who sits in his rocker for his last lingering moments and then dies. I wondered if like the water drop on the river he too went back to his source.

Sheila and I traveled with the river for days, then weeks, than months which seemed to turn into years before we reached the ocean.

At last, we had reached the source of all rain drops. But had we? As the Columbia River joins the ocean there is a violent tide where the river meets its source. It was as if the ocean was requiring the river to be worthy before it let it return.

We had to walk the last distance before we could touch the Pacific Ocean. It was early in the morning and there was fog all about. I noticed Sheila was getting wet from the droplets of water in the air, I realized that this fog was water that had turned to vapor and was leaving the ocean. Could this moisture dripping from my hair be the water drop that we had followed for so long? Could this moisture be separating from its source to live this journey all over again.

I looked at Sheila and took her hand. I said, honey, if we are going to beat our rain drop back to Stanley, we better get along.

Joe LeonardSheila Leonard

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