Sunday, April 27, 2014

Wildness

"In Wildness is the preservation of the World."  - Henry David Thoreau

I came here today because of the beaver dam that I have to cross some two miles or so up the river.  For me, it is, and they are, reminders that there is a something that is greater and untameable.


Thoreu's wildness quote is often misstated, wilderness being placed where wildness belongs.  Wilderness and wildness are two very different things....wilderness being a place, and wildness being a quality... all wilderness being wild, but not all wilds being wilderness, and so forth.

The water in the mill pond is high and when I turn up the brush and tree lined Scantic River, the high water carries more current against me.  But, it also gives me deep water to take full and powerful draws with the paddle, and the upstream progress goes with ease.

We need wildness, even though society most often acts like it is an opponent to be tamed.  If all of the world's wildness were gone, I am sure mankind would create some, and probably by destroying ourselves.

A muskrat crosses my path and dives when I get too near.  A great blue heron takes off from low, and soon, another takes off from a treetop.  There is beaver sign all along the river...felled trees, girdled trees, piles of peeled branches, a bank burrow visible now with the foliage still down, some scent mounds.  It is good.  It is wild.


the dam awash
We need the wild.  We need the hurricane and the earthquake, the landslide and flood and thunderstorm and tornado, the drought and the monsoon.  We need to hear things that are real, and things that aren't when we are alone in the woods at night.  We need to know that there might be a bear in that brush, that wolves exist, that a cougar might be watching from above.  Even though these things might cause some very real harm, the billions that go unscathed need to know that they exist.  We need to be reminded of our place.  We need to be told that in the great scheme of things, we are small.

 The beaver dam is awash.  The spot where I can nose the canoe up against a tree and step out to lift it over is fast water today.  Instead, I step out onto part of the downed tree that forms the foundation of the dam and slide the canoe into the pond.  I pause in the pond for lunch near a tree where two nuthatches are scampering up and down the trunk mining for bugs.  They ignore me.  Perhaps, I am wild.


The current above the pond is faster and water is high.  This section is "the meanders".  It is constantly turning in tight brush lined bends and for me, every stroke of the paddle is an adjustment in direction...a draw stroke, a sweep, a backstroke, a blended mix of all of the above.  If I was paddling with someone else, we'd probably spend a lot of time up against the brush.


I turn back at a fallen tree that requires a portage to continue. 
We need the fallen tree to remind us that we are not in charge.

1 comment:

Gregory Zeorlin said...

Well written! Your description transported my mind to your place in the wilderness. I could almost hear the water as you pulled your paddle through it.