During this time of extreme temperatures and drought, the Flint River’s waters get so low that the river’s bones are exposed. And everything that once was lost to its depths comes to the surface.
The lonely riverbed becomes flooded with ancient memories claimed by high waters long ago and sometimes there are even places you can walk around a rocky distance notorious for wild currents. The soul of the river is laid bare; you can stand and look into the intimate places that reveal fossilized remnants carved from the land stretching from its origins in the Georgia Piedmont down to the Apalachicola.
I can’t help but think that there are life lessons to be learned here in the life of a river that roars like a lion in spring, then wanders like a meek lamb in the summer. If this were not so, we would never know the bones of the Flint and the rich history of its past would always be lost. Similarly, in our lives we have high and low points, prosperity and droughts; but not all droughts are entirely bad experiences, because they are an opportunity to appreciate the wealth of these native waters and remember how important they are to our survival.
If you were to visit the river during a drought, you are likely to find a long lost ring or an arrow head near the shore waiting to be re-discovered. You can walk upon a turtle sitting in the Georgia sun or see a fallen tree that has claimed hundreds of old fish lines and corks. A drought can represent a definitive moment and a chance to change the direction our lives are going. Also, in our everyday struggle to make a living, financial droughts create opportunities to re-discover ourselves.
The Flint is an example that trials may come and go, but the river always remains. From Thronateeska to today, the Flint River continues to flow over 344 miles. Through all of the challenges that have come in between – the floods uncontrolled by dams, the droughts revealing its Southern bones – it continues to be a metaphor for appreciating what we have and learning to adapt to the seasons of life.
For we live in precarious times with an economy troubled by inflation, high gas prices, unemployment, and war, but still during these hard economic times there are opportunities waiting to be found out there. We fail sometimes and even fall short, but like the waters of the mighty Flint we must keep marching forward.
Albany resident Cedrick Shelton is a Monroe High School and Morehouse College graduate with a degree in sociology.