A ford is a shallow place in a river where a man or an animal can cross by wading. The title of Mary Austin’s 1917 novel of the Owens Valley, The Ford, uses the word in both its literal and metaphorical senses. For a sort of gorgeous stippling with the word, here is Cormac McCarthy in Cities of the Plain: “He looked at the horses across the creek where they stood footed to their darkening shapes in the ford with their heads raised looking toward the house and the cottonwoods and the mountains and the red sweep of the evening sky beyond.” The Spanish is vado, and is preserved in the name El Vado Reservoir on the Rio Chama in northern New Mexico.

Robert Hass