Susan C. Anthony


South of the Columbia and north of California, scores of wild green rivers come tumbling down out of the evergreen, ever-wet forests of the Coast Range. These rivers are short—twenty to sixty miles, most of them—but they carry a lot of water. They like to run fast through the woods, roaring and raising hell during rainstorms and run-offs, knocking down streamside cedars and alders now and again to show they know who it is dumping trashy leaves and branches in them all the time. But when they get within a few miles of the ocean, they aren't so brash. They get cautious down there, start sidling back and forth digging letters in their valleys—C's, S's, U's, L's, and others from their secret alphabet—and they quit roaring and start mumbling to themselves, making odd sounds like jittery orators clearing their throats before addressing a mighty audience. Or sometimes they say nothing at all but just slip along in sullen silence, as thought they thought that if the snuck up on the Pacific softly enough it might not notice them, might not swallow them whole the way it usually does. But when they get to the estuaries they realize they've been kidding themselves: the Ocean is always hungry—and no Columbia, no Mississippi, no Orinoco or Ganges can curb its appetite....So they panic: when they taste the first salt tides rising up to greet them they turn back toward their kingdoms in the hills. They don't get far. When the overmastering tides return to the ocean, these once-brash rivers trail along behind like sad little dogs on leashes—past the marshes with their mallards, the mud flats with their clams, the shallow bays with their herons, over the sandbars with their screaming gulls and riptides, away into the oblivion of the sea.
—David James Duncan in The River Why

There was in it one river especially, a mighty big river, that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land.
—Joseph Conrad in Heart of Darkness

Never in his life had he seen a river before—this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again. All was a-shake and a-shiver—glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble. The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted...and when tired at last he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.
—Kenneth Grahame in Wind in the Willows

The sound of the sea came up, and went the length of the valley, and there it lapped on a butt of rocks, and murmured like a shell.
—R. D. Blackmore in Lorna Doone

A bright morning sun seemed to be taking a rest right on top of the highest peak of the Ozark Mountains. It was just sitting there, big and bright, and looked like it was trying to make up its mind what to do next; dry everything out or make the green things grow.
—Wilson Rawls in Summer of the Monkeys

  • Tears made paths down his dusty cheeks.
  • Dense fog smothered the ocean's surface.
  • The shore was toothed by jutting docks, where ships waited before their owner's houses like giant but obedient servants.
  • She tried to speak, but the fear in her heart chained down her words.
  • Her tea kettle was filled with empty silence.
  • The cold bit her toes and fingertips and the air burned her face.
  • The shining ball of sunlight slipped down behind the mountain tops, pulling behind it a great blanket of colors.
—Mark & Delia Owens in Cry of the Kalahari

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Source:, ©Susan C. Anthony