Sunday, July 19, 2015

river’s flow

With afternoon temperatures mostly now hot enough, the river unfrozen enough, and the mosquitoes relaxed enough, river season begins and late afternoons we walk through the meadow, down the stone steps and along the dirt trail that cuts through the wooded bank to the water. Usually uneventful, yesterday at the top of the bank Josie flushed a covey of partridges. The birds drummed and flew, this way and that, into the brush and away.

A blur of partridge on a river bank.

The river’s narrow shore widens in spots, is muddy and slippery and pock-marked with tracks of raccoon, possum, fisherman, deer, perhaps wolf and coyote, me and Josie. In other spots the shore gets sucked into a tangle of ferns and cedar.

Who’s this?

I walk down the middle of the river against its current to the island in the bend just a few hundred feet away. This is where each spring as snowmelt surges the sand on our side shifts, creating an island sometimes accessible from the bank, sometimes not, and where on the opposite bank trees topple from the erosion and move down river or collect helter-skelter in the bend, creating mini falls and shallow whirlpools and rapids and deep pools, one deep dark pool being just our side of this crook in the river’s flow.

Because Josie likes to wade but not swim, he must figure out how to follow me and he wades along the shore where he can but bounds up the bank and through the brush where he can’t. Once he knows we are heading to the island he takes off, finds his trail, will get there first. He waits for me on this year’s amoeba-like spit of sand with its tall tufts of grass and dwarf-like dogwood and pebbley shore. I skirt the edge of that deep dark pool and I am there.

Part of the shoreline, back near home.

This year there is a log well-placed near the head of the bend that invites me to walk out into the river, sit, dangle my legs in a swirl of water. It is sunny and warm and the water talks as it flows under this log and over that log and around those branches, dipping into crevices, rising in a froth, babbling, whispering.

I start when I hear a murmur of voices.

My eyes follow the sound until I am looking at a place where the log I am sitting on creates a haphazard V with other logs, and the water flows into this V and from somewhere in there, deep down, come voices. I think of an episode of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” where Rob and then Buddy are at the office late and they hear a strange noise that sounds like uhny uftz, uhny uftz, and that uhny uftz, it turns out, is coming from a toy flying saucer, or was it Sonny Tufts? Anyway, my uhny uftz is coming from some one, or some thing, down in the murky depths of the river.

Ah, but I am being silly. It is just the river’s flow.

Thinking stops.

I am hollow.

Like a reed. Like a straw.

The water, the air, move through me.

uhny uftz

Josie stands closer to shore on a different log that is covered by a thin, translucent breath of rushing water. I move to sit next to him, which he appreciates. He opens his mouth, sticks it in the water, into the current, snaps up a long drink. Below are pebbles of red and grey and white and black and brown and orange and yellow and green and spotted and striped, with rounded edges, a fuzz of algae, different shapes, different sizes, the water rushes by.

There was a bend in the river where I used to live, the first place I lived in the Upper Peninsula, and I would walk to that bend every morning through a narrow strip of pine and birch flanked by the river on one side, a dirt road on the other, and there at the bend I would lean against the rough ribbed trunk of a red pine and look down. This was a more placid river, at least in this spot, and this bend was wide and somewhat marshy. It was a lovely spot and there were times when I had to leave that home, go off and do something that perhaps was trying, or that scared me a bit, or just made me sad or presented me with an unknown, and I would lean against that tree before leaving and tell myself that whatever it was, wherever I had to go, whatever I had to experience, when it was over I would be back, on some other morning, in this same spot, looking over this curve of wide water leaning against this tree and all this would be here, this breeze of air, and even if for some reason I didn’t make it back, this would still be here and that, somehow, was enough.

The water trickles and churns and flows and uhny uftzs in a continuous fugue and the notes are clear and mysterious and I think, maybe, full of all the wisdom I might ever need but alas will never have. The river shares its wisdom and all I can do is listen and watch as it trickles through my fingers.

Before heading back I plunge into the deep pool, gasping with the cold, float to shallower waters. Josie runs up and down the bank and back and forth and perhaps he is worrying because he sees only my head, bobbing on the water, so I stand up, walk a ways, and he races ahead. I go back to floating, soon see Josie emerge from the tangled bank onto the little muddy narrow beach that we started from. For a while I hang on a branch that lets me float in place in the river’s flow, and then it’s back up the bank, through the meadow, home.

A good branch to hang on to.


  1. Replies
    1. Amen. And I think the best time to jump in is after a hot and busy farmers market, like today!