Monday, September 21, 2009

A Blue-sky Day on a Transformed River

The scarlet leaves of a Highbush Blueberry, set off by a blue, blue sky

What a spectacular blue-sky day! Warm, no wind, a sky so clear you could see all the way to heaven. I'd meant to spend the day on the couch, trying to sleep off this cold that came back with a vengeance, but man, I could not stop myself, I had to get out on that river! A nice quiet paddle, sun on my face, fresh air in my lungs, no effort at all to move across glassy water -- how could that not be healing?

So off to Potter Road I drove, carrying my boat through the woods to put in near Bear's Bathtub. Here's the view that met my eyes: just the sight of that peaceful river was as restful as a good nap.

Even out on the open river the water lay still as glass, unruffled by any boaters of any kind.

But someone had pulled the plug since I was here two day ago. The water level has dropped to where it always used to be this time of year, but hasn't been in at least four years. This photo shows an area I once called Stony Brook Marsh, but which has looked more like a lake for years. Today it resumed its old stony brookish appearance, but without the accompanying rushes and wildflowers that used to line the stream. Today there was only mud -- stinky mud that sucked the shoes right off my feet when I tried to walk on it. But give it a week, I bet the grasses and flowers will spring back to life.

I saw hundreds of snails marooned on mud flats. Others were bobbing about on the water, clearly dead. Can't these snails move themselves into water by skooshing along on slime like land snails do? Along the banks I saw piles of cracked snail shell fragments. Some river critters are feasting on easy-access escargot.

I hadn't seen this stump above water for several years. I used to find Creeping Spearwort sprawling across its surface. I wonder if it might come back, if the river stays this low.

Well, bless my stars, it's still here, that Creeping Spearwort! No flowers as yet, but those are surely its arching runners, now turning green, still alive after several years of inundation.

What survivors, what patient creatures these wildflowers are, to lie in wait in the murky depths on the chance the day may come when they can breathe the air again. And here I am, complaining about a cold that has lasted only a little over a week.


Kenton and Rebecca Whitman said...

We love how you take us along on your adventures. You've not only showcased a beautiful place, but reminded us of the healing power of nature. We bet you'll soon be feeling much better after an adventure like that!

suep said...

amazing how like a mirror the river was - to look all the way across that great distance, and see not one ripple! you were definitely soaking up some healing influences there.
(you must have a similar cold to the one I had, it was sneaky and acted like it was done, when it wasn't!)

Ellen Rathbone said...

With only just a half inch of rain this month (at least up here), it's no wonder the water levels are low.

I found Canadian Burnet yesterday - nice to have a face to put with the name!

Hope you're feeling better soon!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks, dear friends, for all your well wishes. I am feeling better, but now my husband's getting it.

Kenton and Rebecca, I'm so glad you like to come along. I feel the same about your journeys, too.

suep, you're right, it is amazing to see the whole river so still. I was almost reluctant to mar the surface with my ripples. It will be fun to see how fast the plants on the muddy banks revive and cover the mud.

Ellen, we too have been dry. I expected the river to fall over time, but it dropped precipitously, almost overnight. And it had been super-high only recently. That's the thing about rivers -- always changing, never the same. Full of surprises.