… rich

Dear Betsy — So maybe one of your other rivers could answer my question: at what point am I spreading myself too thin and how do I ensure quality over quantity! – The Strong Gold Heart River


Dear Strong Gold Heart,

What a valuable question. THE single most common river problem occurs when some event widens a stream’s channel, requiring the usual flow to cover more area than usual.  The broadening stream becomes shallower — literally “spread thin!”

Stretching out always forces a river to loose speed — a beautiful thing when it happens on the stream’s floodplain. But when it happens in the main channel, there’s trouble.

A stream’s power (its energy during any given period of time) is directly proportional to velocity. As it slows, the stream can’t do its life’s work — carrying clay, boulders, or whatever sediment is at hand. A human life’s work more likely includes preparing dinner, a joke, an account, a romantic moment, a book, yet another book… how do you know when you’re out of control??

There are two sure-fire ways to recognize a spread-thin river.

1st Red Flag: Aggrading

The stream drops its load. Right there in the middle of its channel.

2nd Red Flag: Degrading

Ironically, after the water lightens itself, it has EXCESS energy:

  • because it’s hungry (so the stream eats its own edges ragged); and
  • because the sediment wedge creates a drop off the backside (making the water more steep and powerful at that spot).
    • This falling water digs pools where there should be shallower riffles, and
    • as it erodes the back of the sediment wedge, the falling water slices its way upstream. Such “head cuts” create whitewater-like riffles even on bends where there should be calm pools.

Here’s my own Big Goose Creek. You can see the sediment wedge turning into a center island, the raw stream bank on the right, and, if you look closely, some misplaced ruffled water characteristic of a head cut:

So in answer to the first part of your question, my friend: If your edges fray, if you develop stagnant piles of stuff where there should be easy flow, or if you’re tackling rapids where there should be serene water, then you are spread too thin.

How to ensure this doesn’t happen? I am preparing some specific stream-type energy management ideas. Meanwhile, I LOVE how human energy is portrayed in this guided meditation as a balanced braid of three “currencies” — physical, financial, and time.

We call someone with robust physical energy healthy, someone with abundant financial energy wealthy… and maybe Ben Franklin alludes to wholesome time energy in the final third of his phrase “Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise.” Because there’s really no synonym for time.  Nor a name for someone who tends the energy of time — unless, as with you dear river, it’s the one with heart.  Thank you for your letter, your precious support, and your priceless example to those of us who follow your adventures with awe.

“The only question is: Does this path have a heart?  If it does, then it is a good path. If it doesn’t, then it is of no use.” – Carlos Castanada

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