The Same River

We both step and do not step in the same rivers.
We are and are not.

Somehow, this elegant Zen- and Yoda-like (but actually Ancient Greek) quote has morphed into this: You can’t step into the same river twice.  That, at least, is how I learned it, back in the early 14th century.

The river changes; so do we. 

But as I head down into Queen Creek Wash in Gilbert — a favourite walk from previous trips to Phoenix — I find that I don’t much care whether it’s the same river.  It’s a wonderful river, albeit one without water at the moment.

There are small flitty birds that I can’t identify, but that Merlin can, even from a fuzzy photo. Good job, buddy!

Fuzzy photo of jumpy black-tailed gnatcatcher
Black-tailed gnatcatcher

There are Gambel’s quails and desert cottontails.

Desert cottontail, head down, munching.
This is the cottontail, not the quail.

There are interesting juxtapositions of leaves and branches, branches and leaves.

Silhouette of bare branches, backed by yellowed autumn leaves.And against all expectation, there are road runners: not one, but three, neatly separated by about a mile.

Road runner and ground squirrel, posing together.
Nobody’s lunch.

And just to prove Heraclitus’ point for him, for the first time I take a serendipitous photo with a road runner and a ground squirrel — serendipitous because, squinting into the sun, I could just barely locate the road runner.  I didn’t even see the ground squirrel until I looked at my photos on my laptop.

The calm proximity of road runner and ground squirrel suggests that neither is on the other’s lunch menu.



  1. So, the amazing thing about this piece is not that the river comes and goes and so do we and so do the ground squirrels and roadrunners, but that your learning about Heraclitus commenced in the early 1300s. You are not only well traveled but zoom through other kinds of time zones. I, for one, would like to see some of those travel photos! A peek inside your camera obscura, perhaps?

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Laurna – Sometime before 1990, I picked up the expression “in the early 14th century” to indicate the long-gone-ness of my youth. Never knew where it came from. No idea. Nada. Then I happened to rewatch “A Fish Called Wanda” on TV, and heard John Cleese say it.

  2. Tom Watson

    So here’s the question: If the river both is and is not, does the river really run through it?

    (These are the kinds of things upon which I ruminate when I get a day off.)

  3. Judith Umbach

    Wonderful photo of the road runner and ground squirrel. It is a philosophy in itself. Thanks for all your special and beautiful photos. You make me see with your eye.

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Judith – I sure laughed when I saw it – and the 4 immediately following, which had the same players in different configurations. Writing and photography are both like that, aren’t they? We get a chance to “see” and to see what someone else has.

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