I paddle towards the sea following the east side of Pope's Flat and round its point in small eddies to cut over the next channel to Long Island (not the Long Island that you are thinking of). There is a pair of great blue herons taking off and landing repeatedly and my eye follows their movements until I spot two deer looking at me through the sea meadow grass (spartina). It is a doe and and a yearling and they bound away from me long before I get anywhere near what one would call "close". When I reach the point of Long Island I head across the next channel to Carting Island. Scanning the shore as I paddle, I spot the two deer again. They have, in that short time, swum across the channel and are now trying to find footing to get up onto Carting Island. I watch them disappear into the reeds.
The next stretch is a downriver up-current paddle passing under three bridges in short succession. Then I follow the less protected east side taking advantage of the calm day. After a time, I cut out into the open water heading for Pepe's Rock, the concrete remains of an old navigation marker with "Pepe" painted on both sides, and then for the bottom of Nell's Island, which is much of the estuary that forms the Charles Wheeler Wildlife Refuge. I spot quite a few black ducks. For about 20 minutes, I think that I am paddling the edge of Nell's Island when in fact I am in a channel that cuts through it. So it goes with low marshes. There are few landmarks and no places to get high enough to see where one is going. But, it is the narrow passages that interest me most. They weave through the grasses without giving one much clue as to where they will end up, and I most like the idea that I have to do the paddle and paddle the distance to find out where I have ended up going - it feels like my life.
I take a channel west into the grasses. It is twenty-some feet wide and esses deeper away from open water. And then, it narrows and the water takes on the stillness of a backwater without exit. I stand in the canoe and look and remember a zigzag route of well-flooded thinner grasses and follow it to the open water on the far side, almost regretting that I have arrived.
|my happy to see deer in the marsh face|