Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Home Again to the River

Sunny and warm, just a bit of a breeze, not a cloud to be seen in a deep blue sky: a perfect day to haul my canoe from the cellar and head to the river. Such a feeling of freedom, those first strokes of the paddle against the bright clear water! I slip along close to the bank like a water snake, so silent, so smooth, so almost without any effort. I rest my paddle on the gunwales and drift with the current, relax against the backrest, turn my face to the sun, and b-r-e-a-t-h-e. Home again!

But these old familiar banks are changed from when last I paddled here. Over the fall and winter, beavers have cleared wide swaths, leaving just stumps of Birch and Beech and Red Osier. On this little island, the shrubs that once leaned over the water are now reduced to a few chewed sticks. It will be interesting to watch how the shrubs recover.

Not all the shrubs have been felled. I wonder if Sweet Gale's resin, which makes it so fragrant to us and so repellent to many insects, also tastes bad to a beaver. I found Sweet Gale blooming along the banks today, chubby little tan male catkins on some shrubs, bright red spiky female tufts on others. And then I found one shrub that had both male and female flowers growing on the same branch. What a surprise! I know that the sexes can shift shrubs from year to year, but I didn't know that both sexes could occur on one bush. I learn something new every day.

Red Maples hung over the water, their flowers spent and the tiny keys just beginning to form. How intensely colored they were, all aglow, with the sunlight shining behind them.

Just look at these fat yellow Sassafras buds on lime-green twigs! Gorgeous! They'll sprout into cascading clusters of yellowish flowers, which much later on produce dark blue berries on hot pink pedicels. And their leaves in autumn turn the most glorious colors. Sassafras offers delights in every season. Plus, their leaves are tasty to chew on.

So my year on the water begins anew. How happy I am to be back in my dear little boat again! Just as I was happy to rejoice in autumn's splendor, and marvel at all the lovely forms that ice assumes in winter's cold. The cycle of the year turns round and round, and I can't believe how lucky I am to be able to immerse myself in it. As usual, Henry Thoreau once said it best:

"Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each."

1 comment:

catharus said...

Wonderful! I was immersed in the setting myself, just from reading your post.