Edited by Pamela Michael
With an Introduction by Robert Hass “A marvelous and varied collection, put together with intelligence, playfulness, and passion. What an exuberant, reflective, soul-satisfying trip!” –Malcolm Margolin, author of The Way We Lived
The Gift of Rivers: True Stories of Life on the Water, edited by Pamela Michael, is a book of adventure, discovery, and a collection of stories that convey the powerful pull rivers exert upon the human spirit and imagination. Writers such as Isabel Allende, Barry Lopez, Simon Winchester, Jan Morris, Richard Bangs, William Least Heat-Moon, and Wendell Berry share their explorations of the world’s rivers and convey universal lessons about how rivers nurture all life, challenge and inspire us.
The stories collected here reveal personal transformations and philosophical awakenings enhanced by rivers. The Colorado River transforms Richard Bangs from a skinny college student to a heroic river guide. Jeffrey Tayler boards a rusty, overcrowded cargo barge for a three-week journey up the mysterious Congo River into the heart of equatorial Africa. Isabel Allende explores the jungled Amazon for inspiration. David Quammen confronts mortality on Chile’s Futaleufu River, and Lorian Hemingway finds salvation in the brown waters of the Arkansas.
The Gift of Rivers offers equal measures of adventure and tales of fishing, rafting, exotic river as well as those examining the more contemplative side of stories of baptism, healing, rites of passage. There are also potent reminders of the need for protecting the rivers of the world. In “Spinning Down the River,” John Calderazzo describes watching, as a child, his wild neighborhood stream transformed into a cement-lined drainage trench. Michael Shapiro’s story, “The Song of the Bio Bio,” recounts his last voyage down Chile’s legendary river before it was dammed. “You can never bring it back,” his guide laments. “At least not in our lifetimes.”
These stories have a collective power, speaking as if in unison on behalf of natural, free-flowing rivers, making a powerful case for their importance to humanity as well as to the natural world. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass writes, in his ten-page introduction to The Gift of Rivers, “This is a book of river stories, a wonderful book of river stories, and that would be enough to say by way of introduction, if it were not so interesting to think about them at this moment in the history of the human relation to the earth.”
“The Gift of Rivers is a source of spiritual renewal,” writes Terry Tempest Williams. “Through these stories, we remember why water is holy and the sacred obligation that is ours to keep these waterways pure.”
About the Editor
Pamela Michael is co-editor of two other Travelers’ Tales books: A Woman’s Passion for Travel and A Mother’s World. A radio producer and host of her own travel program on KPFA-FM in the San Francisco Bay area, she is also a freelance writer and director of the River of Words Project, an international children’s environmental poetry and art contest, which she co-founded with former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass. Widely traveled, she lives in Berkeley, California.
About Travelers’ Tales
Founded in 1993, Travelers’ Tales publishes the best in travel, nature, and spiritual writing from world-famous authors as well as new writers. Our goal is to inspire and enlighten readers through true stories by travelers who have explored the depths of their experiences. The series includes country and regional guides, books on adventure and the outdoors, women’s travel, spirituality, food, trouble and survival, consumer titles and, most recently, Footsteps: The Soul of Travel, a series that features single-author travel narratives.
The Gift of Rivers: True Stories of Life on the Water
Editor by Pamela Michael
Publisher: Travelers’ Tales
Publication Date: May 2000
Trade paperback original
ISBN: 1-885211-42-2; 256 pages; $14.95 U.S., $23.00 Canada
Distributed to the trade by Publishers Group West
Available from bookstores, 1-800-247-6553, or www.travelerstales.com