Tuesday, November 29, 2022


It dipped below freezing last night, which took some of the oomph out of my early start ideas. No matter, it is a calm and sunny day and it reaches 40F by the time I set out from Ely's Ferry. I chose this start point to cut out a short hour of paddling so that I could spend time sitting, when I got to a place that called for it.

I paddle along the shore, staying out just far enough to be in the warmth of the sun. I flush a couple dozen Canada Geese at the mouth of Hamburg Cove. Up ahead are a few shoreline houses, one of which is quite a bit older than the others. It is also architecturally more interesting. I recently noticed that the road they are on is Brockway Ferry Road. At first, it seems odd that only two miles upstream from Ely Ferry there should be another. But of course, ferry traffic is actually "road" traffic, and the land distance between Brockway Ferry and Ely Ferry is, by wagon, a hilly half day trip as one has to get around Hamburg Cove. The Chester-Hadlyme Ferry, which still runs, is another two or three miles upstream from Brockway. It would also be a hilly half day trip from Brockway. (Later note: The Brockway Ferry started in 1723. It shut down around 1800 as the shipbuilding industry in Essex was growing. The Ely Ferry began operations at that time being more convenient to Essex. The Chester-Hadlyme Ferry began in 1769 and still runs from April to October)

There is a Bald Eagle perched about 200 yards upstream of the entrance to Selden Channel. I flush a Great Blue Heron just inside the channel.

I find three stone blocks on the shore at water level. They are about 3x6x10 inches, skillfully and neatly shaped. Where they are is backed by a hundred yards of cattail marsh, so where they came from and why is a mystery. All I can say is that they are out of place.

Instead of paddling the length of the channel, I turn up the creek that comes out of the Elf Forest. It is very quiet, although not silent, which is a rare occurrence in modern life. But, the noise is limited to a low muffled rumble from a highway that is a few miles distant. It is a reasonable facsimile of silence. I pour a cup of coffee. There is a rooster somewhere on the other side of the Elf Forest.

I have a sculpture in a show in New Haven. I call it "Huldre", not so much a title as an identification of a creature. The Huldre is a female of the hidden people of Scandinavian folklore. Her method is to appear as beautiful woman and lure men away into captivity... the folklore explanation of how an able woodsman should seemingly disappear without a trace. My huldre is far more haunting - what I imagine her to look like when among her own people. It is made out of stuff that I have found while canoeing. At the show's opening, two little girls were particularly intrigued by the huldre and they asked the good questions. Kids always ask the good questions. 

They asked me, "Have you ever seen a huldre?"  I Say that I have not, but I have heard the huldre. Later, I got to thinking about when a person might see the huldre. First of course, the huldre is a creature of wild places. With that, my theory is that one can see the huldre when they are either lost and completely terrified (which is when you really, really don't want to see the huldre), or when they are completely at one with where they are, in which case the huldre poses no threat. Of course, the huldre is something deep inside of us, and you want that stuff to surface only when you are ready for it. So there.

I begin my way back, detouring up into a small opening that I have passed by dozens of times. It goes farther than I expected.

I return as I came with one brief stop to stretch my legs.

1 comment:

m said...

I love this one. The Huldra is a favorite anyway and this is a really nice blend of a canoe story, art and mythology. Good writing....