Friday, April 8, 2016

SLOUGH MAGIC


We need the tonic of wildness, to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground. – Henry David Thoreau

"Stay back," she whispered, "I want to take a picture." My wife Debbie likes all creatures great and small. It's like being married to a fairy tale princess the way all animals are drawn to her and her to them. Often while kayaking, she used her quiet voice reassuring the ducks, geese and deer that they are safe and they need not be afraid while she passes by, while at the time warning me to give them a little more space as I draw near in my boat. 

She paddles quietly ahead through the narrow section of water, while I stay back quietly watching. She inches forward, barley using her paddle and hoping not to scare off the duck sitting transfixed on a log coming out of the water. It doesn't move.


"You're alright.'' she says assures the waterfowl as she brings her camera phone to her eyes, "You're alright." It is the same for me. Everything is perfect.

"The shore is an ancient world, for as long as there has been an earth and sea there has been this place of the meeting of land and water," wrote Rachel Carson environmental activist who alerted the world to the impact of fertilizers and pesticides in the environment, best know for her book the Silent Spring, it is easy to picture her out gathering water samples in the old wooden canoe as she illustrates her passion for waterways when she said, "Yet it is a world that keeps alive the sense of continuing creation and of the relentless drive of life. Each time that I enter it, I gain some new awareness of its beauty and its deeper meanings, sensing that intricate fabric of life by which one creature is linked with another, and each with its surroundings."

Like for Carson, these waters are my sanctuary. I don't get much time to reflect, except out here.  These are quiet waters of tranquility that have been filtered through my life. On a fast moving river or the ocean, I'm looking for eddy lines, currents and tides, but in the calm of the backwater, I do some of my best thinking out there as I float along. These are the places that inspired Thoreau, Emerson and Muir. Sometimes, I conjure up deep thoughts about God and the universe but mostly inner thoughts are simple ones as I paddle around the marsh. How are my children doing? Could I have handled that better at work? Should I buy another kayak?

"There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature," observed, Carson,  "The assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter. The lasting pleasures of contact with the natural world are not reserved for scientists but are available to anyone who will place himself under the influence of earth, sea, and sky and their amazing life."

I lose track of the time, I lose track of Debbie. She has gone out of sight into another cove. The water on Lake Natoma's depth is always fluctuating. Today, we caught it at a high level offering a more slough coves to explore. The water imbibes a feeling of magic. It takes on an art form of textured richness that no photograph could convey.  The sky and pond flow in a collusion of reflection. Time seems to slow and stand as still as the glassy water surface. In the sunlight, turtles lounge on rotting tree branches, while fish make sudden boils below my bow and the waterfowl stand like statues. Across the bow comes the fragrance spring flowers intertwined with the earthly scent of the lake's aquatic garden. Before long I find Debbie again in the watery maze. Our bows break the stillness of the water sending small ripples carrying dancing flecks of light back toward the shore and ahead of us the lake glistens. 


"When I would recreate myself, " penned writer Henry David Thoreau "I seek the darkest wood, the thickest and the most interminable, and to the citizen, most dismal swamp. I enter the swamp as a sacred place–a sanctum sanctorum. There is the strength, the marrow of nature."