Kerplunky splashes as fish bodies flop back into the river after chasing an air-borne fly are among the unique sounds one gets to hear when quietly tubing. Occasionally I spy a few fish underwater, but mostly they see my ecliptic shadow and move away. I realized today I’ve never gotten a good photo of them. This murky image isn’t a great one, you have to kind of peer into it: the little slim bodies, the rocks in the river bed beneath them, the bendy reflection of the trees on the back at the top. But I like the way the forms of these squiggly little guys speeding within the currents seem to have the same “form” as the reflections of light on the water, suggesting the interconnections of it all. Similarly, the image offers a small sense of the abundance of small fry and the cycles of life, and why the herons I’ve come to know often come to dine in these parts.
We’re so fortunate for the work of so many folks (local, regional, state and federal) over the last couple of decades who have essentially restored the Roanoke River (and thousands of others across America) to its wonderfully clean state today. Most days it’s clear enough to see the bottom three or four feet down — in depths beyond that the reflections and shadows at a particular time of day and amount (or lack) of sunlight limits seeing it. Only after rains, in the natural process of sediment being redistributed and stirred up, does the river get cloudy.
It’s been so heartening that almost every year at some point along the Greenway (which borders this river) I’ve seen an osprey. Like the bald eagle, (which others have seen on this river and in this city!) they feed mostly on fish. Heartening because if the fish are carrying contaminants or poisons within their flesh, these birds, as top-level predators, will accumulate them more than any other animals. It’s precisely what drove the bald eagles into severe decline in the continental 48 states when I was a kid. And it’s only because we’ve begun paying attention to our role within ecosystems, and stopped indiscriminate polluting of our precious fresh water systems, that they‘ be rebounded so I well.
So of course it’s also infuriating and mind-boggling that we have elected people in position as of state and federal oower eager to loosen so many important safeguards on our water, land and air. Which will return the life in our lakes and rivers and oceans back to the precipices, just as other issues like agricultural fertilizer runoff and fracking and pipelines are putting new strains on their healthy existence. It’s a strange, sad denial of the fact that we are integrally linked to the health of our precious freshwater resources.
I post often about the many critters I’ve seen, last evening I saw two deer and two playful groundhogs. But also on this 90º October day (with two more hotter ones expected!) I encountered several people—all of whom I chose NOT to photograph out of respect for their privacy. (The fish didn’t get a choice.)
As I was putting into the water, three folks were setting up to fish on the bank: a grandmother (who wanted to know how cold the water was—it wasn’t), a man in his thirties who carried a chair for the elder, and a young girl I presume was his daughter. In some ways it’s irrelevant, but in others I think significant, that the woman and man were Caucasian, and the playful young girl had brown skin—just like the river’s health steadily improving, I take this as a sign our societal health has improved in the last several decades. I wished them luck with their fishing.
As I passed under the bridge, a familiar fellow with long brown hair, a heavy beard, and a calm presence was writing in what appeared to be a journal as he sat cross-legged on the sandy bank. We’ve come across each other several times ear this spot, and we bowed “namaste” when our eyes met as has become our custom.
Around a couple of bends, I drifted near a young teen up to his waste in the water, with a sweet mutt dog swimming at his side, both happily cooling off. Barley dog-paddled up to me and we said hello. In response to my How are you doing? his partner said: “Gotta be doin’ good on a day like this, bein’ right here!” I agreed whole-heartedly. Just a bit further along an older fellow, another fisherman with his dog were packing up and heading back toward the Greenway.
As I approached the second set of gentle falls, a beautiful young woman in a vivid yet soft cobalt blue garment, with a large black & white head-wrap was standing shin-deep along the rocky edge. The site of her poised, unforced statuesque posture, the colors of her figure against the dry green and brown grasses and olive waters was stunning. Guessing by her clothing, hairstyle, rich skin color and features, it seemed very likely she was an immigrant. I wanted so much to ask where she was from, what she was pondering; was it a potent recollection of her homeland, or was she simply enjoying the cooling waters and not thinking about anything?...but she seemed so content and immersed within her space in that place, that I chose not to interrupt her reverie.
She smiled ever so lightly as I passed. It was a just wonderful to cross her path. She could well have been the archetypal river maiden of any river in any part of the world at any time in history. Floating onward, allowing my tube to spin freely after bumping some rocks, the clouds and treetops swirled overhead, and for a few moments I felt like I too was just a teeny small fry, merged into a place, beyond time.