The River Breathes

via Daily Prompt: Better

I wrote the below narrative back in 2015 after a river trip. I think it is appropriate for the daily prompt word “BETTER”. My blog here is an archive of my paintings. My story below are words only. I have a deep appreciation for people who can paint their stories with words. I think I will stick to painting 🙂

Sep 10th 2015

Early morning rain drops began to hit our camp. The drops steadily increased splatting harder on our overhead canopy. The clouds got thicker and grayer, and the rain picked up speed. I was thinking this will be our second float day. Why? Why must it rain today? We had already finished our breakfast, but now the rain was in sheets. The outfitter bus was scheduled to pick us up at 10:30 am at our camp. As I watched a fat little wood chuck rob something from a few camps down and wattle his way back towards the river bank, I thought we still might have a chance to float today. It would burn off I told myself. Our bus arrived, and we loaded our gear and headed north. As we headed upward on the winding up and down snake back road the clouds were breaking up and slivers of sunlight shined through the rugged tree line. Yes, I thought this is going to work. It wasn’t long after we were standing at the Akers Ferry put in. My wife and I never get tired of floating the Current River, and this is a real good 9 mile stretch of it. I have floated this river since I was 15 and I’m now 59, and each time is different. The river has it’s own beating pulse and life with each time of the year, day, hour and minute. Blue sky was now starting to overtake the odd shaped puffy clouds above. Bulging gray rain clouds were still rolling by, so I was still a bit wary of a cold wet blast. No matter, the magic of the river was pulling us to go in, and that dominated any other emotion. The morning rain cleared the humid air and the temperature dropped nicely. Two days earlier on our first float further down the river we seen abundant wildlife. Numerous striped bass, blue heron, king fisher, ducks, turtles, beaver, otter and more. The air was also teaming with dragonfly and butterfly. We expected the same this day and we were not disappointed. The water was swift on our first float, and I knew it would be even faster today. The slope of the river increases the further up you go. It was running perfect and slightly high. We anxiously sat in our canoe and shoved off. As we traveled down and picking up speed, I glanced back and I couldn’t get over how evident the downward slope of the river was? I wasn’t sure if it was an illusion or actual, but I almost felt I was on an escalator. We were moving at a great clip now. With patches of thick clouds still rolling by and cool air slipping over our skin we couldn’t stop smiling. Love this river! I barely had to use the oar to paddle, and mainly only used it as a steering device. Even in the widening flatter parts of the river we were moving at a good pace. On many occasions, I stood up. Standing gives a much greater vantage point when you look downward into the river. Of course, this made my wife a little a little nervous, so I was limited on this practice. This stretch of the river does have some tricky bits to negotiate from time to time. Large root wads and boulders sneakily hide just below the surface of the water, and so what looks like a harmless ripple from way back, can be a trap. After running a few little white caps through some twists in turns of the river, we heard an increasingly louder roar from around a coming bend. We had little time to react to what was lying ahead. The river straightened a bit, and I was standing once again to survey our choice of routes. The left bank had a narrow passage with deep roaring water slamming into the high hillside, and the white caps turned sharply with a hard right and out of sight. This canoe size wide passage had a very large round root wad the size of a car with another passage next to it. Next to the root wad and further right was a downed tree with large limbs spreading up and outward in all directions. Moving further right and just passed the middle of the river you could tell the river was starting to get very shallow as it moved to the right bank. This water was still running fast and hard, but you could start to see the surface gravel glisten in the sun. I almost chose that point of entry, but thought it might be to risky with the fast water pushing us into those tree limbs. I had to think fast now. I had to choose between going through the narrow passage of the tree and root wad, or the root wad and the hillside bank on the furthest left. Both options had their own unique peril. Now I had no choice but to commit. I chose between the root wad and tree. Just wide enough for our canoe to pass through, I told my wife to spread her feet wide for stability. I aimed our torpedo canoe to the  target. No turning back now we were being sucked in with uncontrollable speed. Everything at this point becomes sort of a blur because a large fear of flipping suddenly becomes very apparent. You just feel like a helpless baby at this point, and just hope for the best. The water was loud and ferocious as it slammed our vessel hard into the root wad kicking us hard right into a large tree limb to the right of us. The canoe first tipped hard left and then hard right. It was a balancing act with two rag dolls flailing wildly about in all directions. We were bouncing hard atop white water with it’s fierce loudness and anger. Telling us you don’t belong here. Feeling like a hocked loogie it kicked us out of it’s clutches and bellowed towards us not to try that again. Hearts still racing a little we were able to have a sigh of relief. That was a close one because we did nearly flip which would have been a disaster at that speed. With the humidity still lingering, there were at times real thick patches of mist floating on top of the water. The air was cool when we passed through them. Some would hauntingly climb up the hillsides off the river. The river is alive and it breathes. A lone blue heron standing about 2 feet tall stays just ahead of us soaring just inches above the water, it’s 6 foot wing span let’s it glide effortlessly above the water. King fisher dives into the river grasping fish along the way. Circling above us are a few buzzards. Not a flap in there wings, they just float on the rising thermals. As we sat listening to nature with not another person on this river with us, I was thinking. All the people going to the Caribbean, Australia, Europe and other exotic locations on this wonderful planet, and here we were on this magnificent river in our backyard. Yes…we made the right choice. It’s a beautiful day. What could be  Better ?! 🙂

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2 thoughts on “The River Breathes

  1. Lovely font …. sometimes the best things are right under our noses …
    But you should come down under too !! 😃🐻

    Like

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