Chronicles

Mike and Carla's Run... part 2
by: Mike Lushington  

            One of the first differences that one notices in being on the river by oneself is the quiet. Carla and I don't talk much when we are in the woods or on the water together in any case (a matter, I guess, of enjoying the experience without having to comment on it), and now there were no other companions to shout to, or even to be concerned about. Within five minutes of setting out, we were around the first bend in the river from the Mouth of Kedgwick and on our way. It was about then that we saw our first eagle of the trip.

            It was flying up the river toward us, huge, graceful and supremely indifferent to us. It soared up to an old pine by the river's side and perched as we paddled by. In our several trips down the river in previous years, we had never encountered one so quickly after we had embarked on the run. Somehow, it seemed symbolic to me. I looked around. Trees, trees everywhere - white pine, balsam poplar, spruce, fir, white birch - from the tops of the hills right to the water's edge. Nowhere any sign of human activity or even human presence. For the moment, at least, I could imagine the river as it has existed for thousands of years.

            At such times, I don't want to talk. I don't want to be distracted by conversations dealing with affairs of the world that I am trying to leave behind, or even by the pleasantries of the moment. I want simply to be in the present, absorbing my surroundings and allowing my imagination to go where it would. I want to think about timelessness, about the flow of the river and about my own utter unimportance in such a place. I thought briefly about what this stretch of the river must be like in the dead of winter when, for weeks at a time, no human eye would see, nor ear would hear, any of the impressions that would, nevertheless, continue to be. (If there is no one in the woods when a tree falls, is there a sound? Does it matter?)

            Around a bend, there is a camp. It may be a humble little affair, barely intruding on the river bank, or it may be a grand expression of mankind's need to impose itself. In either case, we slide by quickly - the river is in flood and there is little opportunity to linger, even if we had wanted to. When we do, we pull out at one of the newly established camping sites for the night - to watch the sun set and the mists arise, to prepare our supper and set up our tent for the night, to watch the darkness descend and the fireflies flicker in the tops of the trees before drifting off to sleep to the rhythms of the river.

            More eagles, more unsurpassed scenery, more peace and tranquillity the following day, at least until we are well down stream and begin to encounter the day trippers and their motor canoes. They intrude upon our peace, but this time, I don't really mind because, for a short while at least, we have had the river to ourselves. For a short while we could have been anyone, anywhere, at any time. That experience is the one to which I will want to return - the rest of it, the parties and the stories, the laughter and the camaraderie and the arguments and the noise can be experienced elsewhere. They can be created anywhere - but one has to go to the river, to seek out what it has to say. When one makes the effort, it only makes sense to listen.

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