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River Psychology: Vigil, exhibit put focus on our environment

The recent musical presented by CAST, “Urinetown,” odd title aside, served as a playful, yet pointed, commentary on human resistance to sustainable practices.

“We are the river,” intoned the finale, and a thirsty, feverish character is mollified by the moralistic assurance, “the river is in you.”

Which just reminds us that the river is not inside us, but is very much an external force upon which we humans exact a terrible toll at the same time we rely upon it for energy, irrigation and drinking water, food, and recreation. That and spiritual inspiration. The river serves our needs and wants, but the paradox is that it is dependent on us to, borrowing from Woody Guthrie, keep rolling on.

The many ways the river touches us, and we touch the river, will be brought out Monday in a scheduled multi-faith prayer vigil at Waterfront Park. (Details on page A5.) Songs, prayer and poems, along with a canoe ceremony, can serve to inspire each of us to individual actions that in small ways can place an increased awareness, if not the river itself, within each of us.

Dams, parks, pollution and other human features render our rivers less wild all the time, but the wild areas in our midst are celebrated at the “Art of the Wild” exhibit, opening Aug. 1 at Columbia Center for the Arts. See Happenings, page A9, for details.

The caliber of the artwork at the gallery is consistently high, and this landmark exhibit is no different. A total of 21 Gorge and regional artists were invited to present their interpretation of our wild places.

Photographer Peter Marbach, who exhibits in the show, expressed it well in the summer 2014 edition of The Gorge magazine in his piece, “The Meaning of Wilderness,” about a treasured place on Mt. Hood, one he visits each year: “There is a presence here that defies description, a feeling of being observed in the abode of spirits.”

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