Good Medicine at Milltown

April 10, 2020

Like most of you, we’re following a shelter-in-place order, closely tracking the news, and working from home. It’s a surreal, unsettling time. Yet it’s clear from all the acts of kindness going on around us – from volunteers delivering donated food to people in need, to colleges making courses freely available online, to orchestra members virtually convening to play “Ode to Joy” – self-isolation isn’t locking down the mind or the heart. It isn’t shutting off connection. And in our corner of the planet, it most certainly isn’t canceling our love for the river.

In fact, the river is good medicine for this moment. It is grounding, life-giving, and ancient. And every drop of water that rolls by in a flowing river offers both hope and promise: that the world is going on, that life is going on, that we are going on.

I headed to the river with my family this past weekend, in search of that magic combination of river sound, sight, and feeling. Destination: the Milltown overlook trail at the free-flowing confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers. The outing coincided with the 12th anniversary of the removal of the Milltown Dam. As a result, the hike down to the river had us all reflecting on that day: the Governor’s shouted order to “Let ’er run,” the excavator (“a woman!” my daughter recalled) scooping buckets of dirt, a trickle of water bursting downstream, eventually becoming a torrent that captured the flow of two rivers that had been dammed for 100 years. It was an amazing thing to witness. And another lesson in the remarkable resiliency of the river.

We thought you might enjoy this video throwback of the event on March 28, 2008, along with a clip of the confluence 10 years later. The river is coming back. We will, too.

All my very best,

Karen Knudsen

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