Thaw, from the Undiscovery Channel on Vimeo.

Headlong headlong waters; roaring; old hypnosis.
The river swamps the car cemetery, glitters
behind the masks.
I hold tight to the bridge railing.
The bridge: a big iron bird sailing past death.
–Tomas Transtromer, “From the Thaw of 1966”
(tr. Robin Fulton)

For what it’s worth, I was born in late winter 1966. Possibly during a thaw.

I chose the music for this short film based solely on sound — the lyrics are no more intelligible to me than the sound of the river — but from the little bit of web research I did, it sounds as if the Caddoan people known as the Arikara, Sahnish, or Arikaree had a strong connection to rivers (Specifically, the Missouri and its tributaries):

The Arikara hunted the buffalo in winter, returning to their village in the early spring, where they spent the time before planting in dressing the pelts. Their fish supply was obtained by means of basket traps. They were expert swimmers, and ventured to capture buffaloes that were disabled in the water as the herd was crossing the river. Their wood supply was obtained from the river; when the ice broke up in the spring the Indians leaped on the cakes, attached cords to the trees that were whirling down the rapid current, and hauled them ashore. Men, women, and the older children engaged in this exciting work, and although they sometimes fell and were swept downstream, their dexterity and courage generally prevented serious accident. Their boats were made of a single buffalo skin stretched, hair side in, over a frame of willows bent round like a basket and tied to a hoop 3 or 4 feet in diameter. The boat could easily be transported by a woman and, according to Hayden, “would carry 3 men across the Mis­souri with tolerable safety.”

cable roots

On the bank above the junction of Plummer’s Hollow Run with the Little Juniata River, an invasive ailanthus — the so-called tree of heaven — rose from a nest of rusted steel roots. Nearby, fresh-cut stumps of ailanthus and black locust along the township road probably attested to the desperation of local poor people to get through this winter with the high cost of heating fuel. It’s been three centuries, now, and we non-natives have yet to figure out how to put down real roots.

6 Replies to “Thaw”

  1. …and the older children engaged in this exciting work, and although they sometimes fell and were swept down stream, their dexterity and courage generally prevented serious accident.

    Makes it all sounds so benign.

    Particularly enjoyed the first sequence in your video – water running over roots.

  2. MB – Yeah, love that “generally prevented”! However, who’s to say whether that’s really accurate, or just some white guy’s assumption, based on preconceived notions of how Indians treated their children. On the other hand, I’ve always thought we’d do well to imitate traditional Native rites-of-passage — sending the kids out into the wilderness alone for a week, for example. Might lose a few that way, but probably far fewer than we currently lose to drunk-driving accidents, drug overdoses, and gang warfare.

    marja-leena – Glad you liked!

    Jean – Well, the weather was very overcast yesterday, so there wasn’t much color there to begin with (I had to really jack up the red in Photoshop to get those cables in the photo to stand out). But I also wanted an old-fashioned look to go along with the music. And I thought it might make for a slightly smaller, faster-to-download file.

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