You can tell someone you love 'em From the bottom of your heart And believe that it's the truest thing you've known And even if you never break the promises you make The river's gonna keep on rollin' on And if you haven't got a dollar Not a penny to your name Somebody's gonna miss you when you're gone And even if you never find Just a little peace of mind The river's gonna keep on rollin' on Keep on rollin' to the ocean Keep on rollin' to the sea Keep on rollin' 'til the love we need Washes over you and me God's love is like the river At every turn and every bend And faith in Him will turn your heart around 'Cause even though we sin There's forgiveness in the end And the river's gonna keep on rollin' on Keep on rollin' to the ocean Keep on rollin' to the sea Keep on rollin' 'til the love we need Washes over you and me Amy Grant—“The River’s Gonna’ Keep On Rolling,” Vince Gill
We’ve been taking this river route back and forth from the cabin to the kids for more than fifteen years. There are freeways that could get us there in the same amount of time, but they add another 250 miles . . . and besides, we know this route by heart. Know where we’ll find lunch and where the cell service will disappear. Know when there’s nothing ahead but 100 miles of deep woods and a couple of Maple Bars in white paper bags with our coffee. Every now and then the kids say, “Why don’t you take the freeway,” as we’ve grown older. But we know this way, its curves having left their grooves in our minds. And we know the beautiful rivers. The Little Salmon, Hazard Creek, Fiddle Creek, Lucille Creek, and Old Lucille, Skookumchuck, Swan, Coolwater, Lick, Selway, Ashpile, Crooked Fish, Two Shadows Creek, Apgar . . . and looking way back into the woods where two misty rivers meet, Post Office Creek . . . to name just a few.
We know when we’re halfway home, or two hours out. We know the bright gold of the Tamaracks rick-racking in the dark pines that rise beside us like a choir on risers in fall, clouds unfurling like sheer ribbon halfway down their sides. Fishermen floating in boats now the tourist have gone, their trucks tipped at the edge of the road. We know the banks of plowed snow on each side of the highway, our luge track in winter. The silence. Snow piled high on pines untouched even by wind, like a painting in a Scandinavian children’s book. We know the smoke from campers’ bonfires in summer through our open car windows, sky sliding into navy blue, motor home windows and faces lit like lanterns along the rivers.
But it is in spring when these rivers are their fullest, melting mountain snow making them rush white and boisterous. Dead logs are left atop boulders and gray-brown branches eddy like gaggles of geese at their banks. Adventurers in helmets rise and fall in bright bloated rafts in the foaming currents, shaking the water from their faces and repositioning their oars when a deep pool rescues them momentarily. Reboarding buses way on down the river to come back up and do it all again. You must roll your car windows down in spring, even if it’s way too cold! The siren call of the spring rivers is too beautiful to resist. You must also watch for rocks that may have tumbled from wet cliffs.
This trip feels longer than it did seventeen years ago when we were those fifty-something kids with big possible dreams . . . adding a cottage down below the cabin for more room, and for when we were old folks. Hosting writers’ weekends on the porch with my good strong coffee and Cranberry Orange Scones. Grandchildren coming back year after year, even with babes of their own. It feels like this river route is still a symbol of that dream. We can smile now at all the ways living in the cabin has changed us, brought us joy . . . in spite of a few tears along the way and dreams relinquished. All the ways that the fulfillment of the dream has been both similar and different to that first big one . . . but always better, we’ve discovered as we look back. He knew what we needed more than we did.
In ten hours you can listen to a lot of music. So many carried us along . . . Sandi Patti, the Gaither Vocal Band, Willie Nelson, Kathy Mattea, Yanni, Vince Gill, the Gatlin Brothers, Point of Grace, Barbra Streisand, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, Alison Kraus, Michael W Smith, and Amy Grant . . . the soundtracks of those trips. I can’t hear this song without being on that highway of rivers. “Keep on rollin’ to the ocean. Keep on rollin’ to the sea!” We know where we’re going and that we will continue to be sustained by His love, His goodness and grace, all along the rest of the way. Yes, it is well with my soul.
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way When sorrows like sea billows roll Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say It is well, it is well, with my soul . . . It is well, with my soul It is well, it is well, with my soul