It is time to write. It has taken a couple of miles to drift away from the minor irritants that come with a somewhat normal life and return, at least to some extent, to the center of the Earth.
The tide is high with grey overcast skies and a light mist mixed with a surface fog that is the result of an unseasonably warm November day. More than anything, this seems to be a trip for the nose. And in the calm I paddle close up to the tree lined shore to take in the strong scent that being exhaled by the forest. It can't be photographed, it can't be recorded, and it probably can't be described to the uninitiated. Hanging in the mist, perhaps held in place by the mist is the tangy and slightly acrid smell of fall. It is the smell that one finds when they dive headlong into a pile of raked leaves and it seems to contain the dry foliage, honey, acorns and a hint of smoke all softened ever so slightly by the damp of the day. Now, it fills the valley, but it will go away when the weather chills so paddle close and remember it.
When I turned the first point and entered Salmon Cove, a hundred or so mute swans formed a line near the far shore a half mile up. They come here in the fall from their dispersed places and overwinter. I suppose that here is where the new cygnets are introduced to the flock. They are easy to spot, grey or mixed grey and white.
I pass two fishermen anchored in midstream at the second bend of the river and greet them, "It's a hard day for November," the temperature in the upper 60's.
I spot a couple great blue herons along the way and, near the bridge, two kingfishers who seem to be hashing it out over territory. One spreads its wings open and wide while perched. I read it as more of a warning than anything else. I reach the Leesville dam and turn back, the water above the dam being shallow at this time of year, and I begin collecting molted swan feathers as I go.
The wind comes up, first in short gusts that shake leaves loose in dismembered clouds, then it becomes more steady, sometimes in my face, sometimes swirling from the side for no particularly obvious reason. Following the right hand shore and still ten minutes away from the flock of swans, they all turn to the left in unison and leisurely swim to the far bank, assessing my path and speed from 600 yards. By the time I get to where they were, they are just as far away as before, and I am not where I was when I started.