Thursday, October 22, 2015

Last Call for the Sneak

The draw of the dank frostiness of a marsh in morning in the late season of the year, the seasons where the sun stays low, where the forest remains deep in shadow, comes in the awakening that occurs when the sun brings its' heat and light to the cattails.  The stillness that was dawn is replaced by the motions and calls of all of the marsh critters as they greet the sun.

I'm not particularly early in arriving at the marsh, but I do catch the tail end of the awakening.  The birds are alert and flush early and energetically, they are out in the open seeking sustenance for the day's plan.  I flush what seems to be forty mallards as I round Pocket Knife Bend although they may be black ducks...the sun is in my face and both species have similar shapes and calls.  Two great blue heron fly off at the same time.  By the time I reach the sawmill dam, I add four great blue herons and a lone osprey to the count.  Footfalls in the forest surrounding the river are nothing more than acorns dropping from the oaks, the leaves on the ground amplifying the sound of anything as large as a squirrel into the racket of a deer in flight.

The stillness lifts when I reach the stone arch bridge, the wind rising in the trees, the acorns falling with more authority.  The wet on the riverside tree trunks show the tide is down by 10 inches.  The temperature has jumped several degrees just by leaving the forest behind as I enter the big marsh. 

Yellow legs are the dominant shoreline wader here, the herons staying up near the forest, the willets that take over in summer long gone on their way south.

I enter the Sneak, the almost unknown passage across the marsh into Bailey Creek.  It is last call for the Sneak, the tide dropping, the passage narrowing.  I cross the high point just before reaching the creek with just a few inches of water beneath the canoe.

And then I paddle and put away the identifications and labeling.  What I see is where I am, and when I get where I am going I will be where I am, and everything else is not here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Canoe Pants

It is customary for me to wake my wife in the morning with her first cup of coffee, I being the early bird and she the night owl.  She looks over in the predawn darkness and says with a tone of happiness, "canoe pants", my outfit telegraphing the day's plan.

It has become noticeable to me that there are more than a few people who watch for me to go out in my canoe.  Not only do they watch, but it seems that they encourage act, waiting to find out what I will find, or think, or create from the experience.  It is what draws me to being an artist, that regardless of how the "other" world sees it, the people within my world support and encourage acts of curiosity and creativeness.  I feel most fortunate.

Over the past two months, I have been managing a reasonably large art exhibition project.  It keeps me off of the water, but it does introduce me to new people...people that are inside "my world".  Some of them will join me in the canoe sometime in the future, but today is for myself.
In that time, the wild rice has been eaten or dropped into the marsh, the cattails have gone tan, and most of the birds are in some phase of migration.  The transition seemed fast and early this year, possibly propelled by a dry summer.

I go inland away from a windy coast that will also bring a low tide during the middle of my paddle.  I end up in the northeastern hardwood forest on a tidal river a good distance from the sea.  It has not rained much of late and the river is low well before the coming low tide.  I follow the river downstream through the trees and out onto a great marsh.  A great blue heron being the first bird of consequence that I find.  And, looking into the sun, I spot the obvious bobbing flight pattern of a kingfisher, it's colors erased by glare but the ID positive none the less.

I go on my way spotting herons, a small flock of coots, an empty eagle's nest, and a number of smaller turtles out gathering the last of the sun's heat before winter sets in.  When I turn back at the meeting with the big river, I join the landscape and become observant without classifying what I see.  It is the time when one is most available to what the land holds.  But, a familiar call interrupts that place, for a moment...a very late osprey lands in the branch of a tree at the inside of the bend.  I think it should be south by now, and it reminds me of the Salmon River osprey that I watched last year up until the river began to freeze in.  I wonder why they stay, I wonder if they make it through winter.