go tell it on the mountain

I like to walk. If I have a destination—a specific place I actually intend to go—that’s okay. But I prefer to walk destination-free. Today I put aside the eighty thousand things I have to deal with and think about, and I walked.

It would be more accurate to say I went meandering—accurate on more than one level. The term meander comes from winding Turkish River called the Büyük Menderes, known for its twisting course. Homer mentions it in the Iliad. And today I walked aimlessly and slowly along a river. It’s the end of January and 64 degrees Fahrenheit, which is just bizarre. The ice was melting rapidly in the river.

I encountered a few people. Spoke to some of them. Didn’t speak to others. I’m not sure how I decided which ones to speak to and which ones to ignore. Some ignored me back, or ignored me preemptively. Others spoke and were happy and cheerful to be out in such weather. And one sang to himself, softly.

As I shot this photograph, a man of about my age came strolling by, singing to himself in a very small voice. It was an old Civil War era hymn—what used to be called a ‘Negro’ spiritual, a song of hope and the promise of redemption written and sung by a people you’d think would have little of either. “Go tell it on the mountain,” he sang. “Over the hills and everywhere.”

And it all cheered me up. An unseasonably lovely day. Walking along a river, walking in a way that takes its name from a river half a world away, a river celebrated in song and poetry for ten thousand years. Hearing a man singing another song, this one only a century old, but like the Iliad also about hope. Watching rust do its slow work, which for some reason I find oddly comforting. All of those things, they cheered me up.

There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere. A lesson or a moral. I have little truck with lessons or morals or spirituals, though I’m mightily taken with meandering. But whatever there lesson or moral there is, I’ll tell it on the mountain, and over the hills and everywhere.

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