The Impeded Stream


The Sunday morning walk with the dog talk us through the rain to University Avenue (coffee stop) then to Strawberry Creek Park, just to the south of University along the old Santa Fe Railroad right of way. When I first visited the neighborhood, back in the mid-1970s, the former rail route was just a flat, brushy expanse. Then the city came up with the money to turn it into a park. Part of the project was to daylight Strawberry Creek, which tumbles down from the hills above the University of California, through the campus, then (for the most part) under central Berkeley. When the park was new, it seemed kind of barren. When the creek was freed from its culvert, it was engineered with a couple of nice aesthetic bends and short drops, though the banks were lined with unaesthetic slabs of broken concrete. All this time later, trees and shrubs have grown up and the place has a nice, green, lived-in air about (maybe a little too lived-in, to be honest–not everything’s pristinely maintained).

Anyway, there we were by the creek, listening to the water spill down the channel. From nowhere, Kate come out with: “The impeded stream is the one that sings.” She has a great memory for poetry and lyrics and still surprises me with her ability to produce the apt quotation.

” ‘The impeded stream is the one that sings,’ ” I said. “Who said that?” Kate didn’t know, but I offered that it sounds like Thoreau. She didn’t think so, and looked it up when we got home. It’s from Wendell Berry, a poem called “The Real Work”:

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

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