Monday, July 24, 2006

Observations from the river by Vicki

I’m not much of a journal writer, but have found myself with a notebook full of incomplete sentences. Snapshots of a week that has rubber-band stretched and snapped into real time.

Boat Day one

We’re getting good at this! Each member of the crew has a niche. Comic relief, food prep, dishes, firebuilder, get the chairs, enter the data all come together daily in an organic way. No one wants for anything. Companionship, solitude- take your pick. The opportunity changes daily.

We board the boats and make our nests. Before two miles have passed we are in the rhythm that will take us through that day. We employ the “dog look”, snapping our heads back and forth. River miles are instinctive now. We know where we are in space.

We relax into the day and begin to notice things. A brick house- the first I’d seen. How did someone schlep those over the plains? Bright pockets of sun through the cottonwoods, just enough to warm the flowers that make riotous spots of color in the green.

Boat Day two

The animal people. Otters on the bank near a grain elevator. Bald eagles flying over the power plant. Signs of beaver everywhere.

Much has been written about the herons that we see. At first they were shy birds, flapping off at the first sign of our boats. In the urban areas, they are acclimated and merely look at us as we power by.

The flies. The vampire flies, says Anthony. So gentle, says Daniel. Biting, nasty, tenacious flies. Ground crew saw to our comfort by supplying swatters for both boats.

We can tell when we motor past public land. The cottonwoods drape the river. It is greener and cooler.

I don’t dare scan the other bank, I’d be lost. It is enough to know I’m immersed in “my” side.

Day three

We are fortunate to live in this time. Aren’t we lucky, says Nancy. The changes are happening right before our eyes. We meet folks every day that are having an impact on the river and charting the changes. You can damn the channel, but we couldn’t use our motors without it. We curse the wing dikes, but love the sandy beaches they create.

The reporter who had never been to the ramp and needed directions from a boat full of grimy river rats from hundreds of miles away.

The chevrons are new and have covered the trash that has accumulated. Have we not yet had the water to deposit the trash? Steve notices that there is driftwood piled along the rock. Perhaps the bottles and cans haven’t yet made it to this place.

A message in a bottle has been dropped daily, the brain child, and pseudo science of Michael. We caught up with that bottle down stream. The bottle got an earlier start than our boats did. It covered 10 miles in the four hours since we threw it in. It feels strange to be throwing trash into the river. I feel a bit self conscious doing it. It feels more like weird science now. A call to Michael to tell him. Science at work!!


At 4:08 PM, Blogger m.o.i. said...

hey i'm as big a fan of weird science as the next person; however, as a group that is dedicated to helping folks solve the trash issue you shouldn't be dropping 'messages-in-a-bottle' no matter how charming the idea always appears to be. sometimes i have to check the message-in-bottle urge myself. why i've often thought of messaging-in-a-bottle the river relief crew when i'm out on the river in hopes that you intrepid, trashy folks would be lifted to even higher planes of worthiness upon reading say this quote from the reigning poet laureate of nature, mary oliver, "Tell me, what is it that you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" You are telling me River Relief and I love you dearly for what you are doing with your lives.

Try this weird science instead. Find something, say some driftwood on the banks. Build a driftwood cairn at the river's edge and float that downstream. Watch it fall apart in an eddy or go round and round and round. Make an nest of driftwood and float that downstream in memory of all the birds that use the roost along the river and the memory of those that would roost, if there were a larger riparian corridor. Use a charcoal stick and make a birchbark drawing and send that downstream. have a contest to see who can build the most interesting canoe out of found, natural objects, carve your name in it, and float that downstream. prize to the longest float.


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