Jill Talbot
Professor and Essayist
Denton, Texas, United States

The Bend of the Environment

“A chance to know that when we leave, we will leave behind something beyond memory.”

Years ago, in the middle of a July night, my hands sifted through a bend in the Eagle River to rearrange a mosaic made by moonlight, while a silhouette of the man I loved and would one day lose leapt onto a rock. That rock—a boulder—braced against the shh-shhing current and broke the water in two. Dividing, the river curved in opposite directions before returning to its singular stream. We were lost in our distance, loved the way we could separate, one leaning against the river’s pull, the other casting an invisible fly pretending to unfurl a silver line in the shadows. We trusted that we, like the current, would always come together again, that the pieces of the mosaic would settle back into their design and the line would rest and the trout would rise, even to our imagination. But some currents suddenly cease. Pieces fall away. We’re left with a distance settling like a dry and desolate alluvial fan, a gulch aching the earth. I return to this bend and this night—again and again—but only in memory. I’m afraid to go back, to find the bend hollowed out, the boulder bone-dry, the shadowed trout departed. But recollection revives dissolution, reverses outcome, and dissolves catastrophe so that the river gurgles its curves and the moon’s light slices like silver knives. When I think of it, I hear the humming of Wordsworth’s lines: “Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower; we will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind.” We look to the landscape to abide. Here is a chance to reverse direction, to shh-shh the change bearing down on the earth like a current’s threat. A chance to know that when we leave, we will leave behind something beyond memory.