A river runs through it, and keeps on going

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 23, 2006

The office of The Selma Times-Journal sits at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge and backs up to the Alabama River.

Our building has a balcony that looks out over the bridge and the river, and in the afternoons on sunny days, it is a wonderful place to sit and contemplate life.

Watching a river run is a therapeutic thing, and bodies of water should never be taken for granted. They can take us places, even in our imaginations if we don’t make the actual trip.

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“Pooh’s Little Instruction Book,” inspired by A.A. Milne, says, “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”

You can’t be too worried about anything when you’re sitting on the banks of any body of water – whether the Gulf of Mexico, an ocean, a river, bayou, bay or even a lake. (Man-made lakes get put in a separate category because they often go nowhere).

As for other bodies of water, they roll, they splash, they run and they form a part of the bigger picture.

A great movie based on a beautifully-written book is “A River Runs Through It.”

In the book, author Norman Maclean writes of the Big Blackfoot River he grew up fishing near his native Missoula, Mont.

“I sat there and forgot and forgot, until what remained was the river that went by and I who watched. On the river the heat mirages danced with each other and then they danced through each other and then they joined hands and danced around each other. Eventually the watcher joined the river, and there was only one of us. I believe it was the river,” wrote Maclean in the book, which is really a collection of several short stories that eventually merge into one.

Which is what happens with rivers.

The Alabama River flows from Selma through Wilcox and Monroe counties, eventually linking up with the Tensaw River, then flowing into the Mobile Bay.

The Mobile Bay flows out into the Gulf of Mexico, and the Gulf of Mexico opens up into the Caribbean Sea or by way of other straits and passages, to the Atlantic Ocean.

Of course, that’s a very short version of what could be quite a journey. The Alabama River winds its way through the southern portion of the state, making for a meandering excursion to the Coast.

The Alabama River is also a part of history, and I’m not talking about Civil War or Civil Rights history.

There are a series of pre-Columbian forts built along the Alabama River and some historians believe this is evidence that Prince Madoc made his way into the Mobile Bay and up through Alabama toward the Chattanooga area. Prince Madoc, of Wales, is believed to have arrived along the Alabama coast in about 1170 A.D. (An interesting side note: Madoc was himself said to be escaping from a Civil War in his country.)

In more “recent” history, botanist William Bartram is said to have explored the forests along the Alabama River during his travels to the area in the summer of 1775.

Of course, later writings chronicle cotton being loaded on steamboats in Selma.

It’s hard to sit and look at a river without seeing the past, and wondering about its ultimate destination.

Tammy Leytham is the editor of The Selma Times-Journal.