Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sometimes one just sits in the marsh

After a couple days of rain and wind, I walk the Harrison portage to the big lake on a cool and dark gray winter day. A light wind blows from the SE and there is a chop that defies common sense. Whatever resembles waves seems to change direction several times within a hundred yards of travel. Waves come from behind, from the side, from the front. It is slow. It is always slow when the water does this.

I leave my map making gear at home today. Although it is a good day for that type of work, that task leaves little room for thought even if it does rub my nose into the smallest of the marsh's details. Today, I just need to be here.

I spot a bufflehead, then a few goldeneyes who show up more often in bad weather, and then I spot a lone otter at some distance. It dives and is down for some time. When it does surface, it is just 20 feet away. We look at each other briefly and it disappears, both of us on our way.

Turning the point into the bay brings me to calmer water, as always. I'm greeted by some more goldeneyes and a few common mergansers. For some reason the male mergansers seem unusually brilliant in their black and white. They seem too neat, too clean. They are handsome.

So, I survey the domain, I pass close to the big beaver lodge, devoid of vegetation in mid winter but littered with fresh branches. I pass the idiot fountain, a gift from people who had seen the water only from land. They tried to improve what they did not understand. I find it a sadly misplaced relic, but I am fortunate to, because so often I get to see the water and land from the water. An eagle is on a light pole and a second one on a branch above the south nest a good quarter mile away.

In the east marsh, I move to the place where the cattail island once was. Last May, in the high water, much of it picked itself up and moved, moving some 70 feet in the span of ten days. Now, it is a cattail peninsula with new and deep canals leading into places that were abstract imaginations at one time. Now, one can penetrate the cattail wall and see the inner workings of the marsh islands.

The office

But, those canals, those canals are hints that the island is ready to move again this spring. I paddle in and wedge the canoe into a canal, surrounded by dried winter cattails rising 6 feet above. When I tire of looking up, I look at the base, just above the water. If I let my eyesight meander, I can peer back six or ten feet through the irregular plan that nature has. And I know that if I went to the end of that six or ten feet, I would be able to peer another six or ten feet. And another. Where the mind goes.

I find that the workbench beavers have started cutting down a large alder not far from their lodge. It is 18 inches at the base. The chips are so big that I have to go look just to make sure that it is tooth work.

On the portage home, I pass a parked work truck before sitting on the bow of my canoe for coffee and a muffin (the advantage of a convenience store located on one's portage route). Soon, the truck drives up, window down, and the driver looks out smiling and says,
"This is a picture of what is right with the world these days."

1 comment:

Kathleen Faulkner said...

Love your office.. and the truck driver pretty much says it all.