Sunday, April 12, 2015


It was only after some eight miles that I picked up my pencil. Things that I thought about writing down earlier were left behind, exchanged for absorbing everything that I could with my senses.  I normally would turn back about 6 miles out, near the bottom of Pine Island where the river narrows and begins to bend its meanders in tight corners.  But, on such an extraordinary day I saw no reason to follow the ordinary and I continue to the Patterson road head.  Beyond that, the river goes very wild.

The water is high with snow melt, the trees of the swamp awash in a foot or two of water.  The rivers narrow deep channel would be hidden except that the cold water is clean and clear and the bottom is visible to six feet or so.  Even so, I often miss the track and find myself cutting across the meanders and through the trees until I run across it once more.  The high water changes the equation.  The canoe passes over every beaver dam by at least a foot.  The downed logs that require a step out are the same.  I never set foot outside the canoe.

But also, there are no hawks because there is no prey in that foot of water.  Likewise, I go six miles before seeing a heron, because the shallows are not at the rivers edge anymore.  I do hear plenty of woodpeckers and flush more wood ducks than I am used to.  At least the swallows and red wing blackbirds are behaving as they should.  Peeper frogs are calling out, even in the chill of the morning as I head in, while the bullfrogs stay silent until the day warms.  This swamp is loaded with bullfrogs.  When I first heard them in here, I thought it was some farm machinery up ahead.  Then, when I discovered that the sound came from the interior and not the edge of the marsh, I assumed it to be a huge flock of ducks somewhere back in the trees.  They hush when one gets too near, and the tip off is the way that the thousand calls, each at a slightly different frequency, come together every so often to create an in-unison pulsing.

It seems that in fourteen miles of paddling, I should write more, but I suppose that if the wilds are doing what the wilds should do, I might write less, if not nothing.  I too am awash in that foot or two of water.

Where - Great Swamp

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