Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gettin' higher!

I went out in the car again this afternoon and found that the river is, indeed, rising at near expected rates. Here are some of the photos and a few quick videos:

This is the corn field across the street from our house. It has not been farmed for a few years, but it is normally 'high and dry' in all but the heaviest flooding.

Here is another video (and a still shot) of the Tariffville Gorge dam (in Simsbury) with levels quite a bit higher than the same location yesterday (see the video posted yesterday).

Water is rising.

It looks like the western part of Connecticut will be spared major flooding situations as the rain tapered off some last night. However, it was a heavy downpour for the better part of the morning. I checked the USGS stream levels and saw that they are controlling the flow from the Goodwin Dam (west branch of the Farmington River) to help reduce the flow - a strategy that looks as though it is working. I took the pictures and video during the early afternoon yesterday (Monday, 3/29) and will get out again tomorrow (Wednesday, 3/30) to revisit some of the same locations.

Eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island are in bad shape at this hour. The Yantic River will crest above record stages at some point tonight and rivers in Rhode Island are already at record levels with evacuations beginning to occur in some areas. Thankfully, it appears as though the majority of the rain will be through falling by this evening. Providence has had over 7" of rain in the past 48 hours and tides are high due to the lunar cycle!!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

It's not '55, but more flooding is on the way!

Maple and Water, Naugatuck
The corner of Maple and Water streets in Naugatuck at the height of the Flood of 1955 on Aug. 19, 1955.

Courtesy of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

In the late summer of 1955, Connecticut was struck by two successive tropical storms that effectively submerged many areas of the state. The infamous Flood of '55 is still evident in the landscape and still in the minds of most who lived in the region at that time. Lives and homes were lost, businesses were destroyed, and the general infrastructure of dozens of communities was rendered inoperable for weeks.

While the past two weeks have seen one storm after another move through the area, the total rainfall will not match that of '55. However, with many rivers still high, and with the ground still saturated from the winter melt and recent rains, the storm that is arriving tonight is sure to bring the Farmington, Connecticut, Housatonic, and other rivers to flood stage once again.

I will be out and about with the camera for the next several days to document the surge and the ebb of this pending nor'easter!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Early Morning Mist

This morning I had the opportunity to see that which we rarely get the opportunity to witness. In the cool, post-dawn air, sunlight glancing across the river where it found openings between the leaves and branches of the tall trees lining the riverbank, the morning mist rose from water’s surface with the warming air. I paddled more slowly and deliberately than usual trying hard not to disturb the quiet gentleness of the crisp morning air.

The vision of little wisps of condensed moisture rising and spinning reminded me of an experience while crossing the vast expanse of the Ottawa River where it separates Quebec from Ontario. In the company of 9 other men just completing a weeklong voyage down the Dumoine River, I witnessed an amazing display of atmospheric artistry. Then, too, the air was still with the early morning sanctuary of northland dawn. Silencing our busy tongues, a wall of mist rose vertically like a giant ethereal curtain some hundred or more feet into the reaches above our small red canoes. For many minutes we all felt as though immersed in a strange obstruction of time, feeling one another’s presence more fully as we all plunged into deep awe.

Far from the magnitude of my Ottawa experience, today’s exhibition was more of a delicate lesson in the complexity of air movement. As I indulged the energy necessary to stay focused on one wisp of moisture at a time, I realized that the pattern of air rising was not in contiguous blocks of matter. Rather, the effect of rapid vertical movement, a consequence of the relatively intense heating in direct light, was displayed as tiny vortices of mist that maintained their integrity long enough for my eyes to linger before seeking another similar helical display.

It struck me as fantastic that we move through the air of each day never fully realizing the elaborately fluid architecture of the space around us. Yes, on a grand scale we are able to witness the power of cyclonic air movement in the form of tornadoes, waterspouts, hurricanes and typhoons. But seldom are we privy to the intricate matrix within which we make our way each day. There are those, however, who find a way through and among these tiny eddies of air in the same way that the eagle rides the voluminous thermals of air leaping upward alongside a mountain slope bathed in full sun. The smallest aviators of the animal kingdom, tiny insects, ride these invisible escalators in a calculated effort to minimize their expenditure of energy. Feeling the subtle boundaries of rising and falling air lifting one wing and leading to a brief roll and then correction, these beings test and retest the mircocurrents with a skill unmatched by even the best of human pilots in the most technologically advanced aircraft.

We are humbled by these elements that are all about us. Their magnitude may be small in measured value, but in concept they are vast and difficult to fully comprehend. With the pause of reflection, one can resolve the mysteries that abound, taking along a new sense of understanding that will serve to better integrate with one’s surroundings on that next small adventure.

Old Inuit Poem

I think over again of my adventures, those small ones that seemed so big.
For all the vital things I had to get and to reach.
And yet there is only one great thing, the only thing.
To live to see the great day that dawns and the light that fills the world.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Gathering

One of the attributes of the internet that I enjoy (there are some that I find less appealing) is the ability to communicate with a group of people with relative ease. Where it might have been a chore some twenty years ago to organize and plan a gathering of like-minded souls, today one can use community websites to "meet" with and negotiate intentions such as my trip this past Saturday on a stretch of the Farmington known as Crystal Rapids. Northeast Paddlers Message Board connects paddlers of all types in this region of the country. It allows several hundred people to share ideas, tips, techniques, humor, and, sometimes, irritation as they indulge themselves in this wonderful appreciation of aquatic resources.

Saturday was a typical summer in New England. Warm and a bit humid, with billowy cumulonimbus clouds forming at the turn of midday. We paddled with a river volume of about 550 cubic feet per second which is approaching "low" for boating purposes. But each level brings a unique look and feel to the river, particularly the areas of class 1 and class 2 rapids. Rocks appear and disappear with changes in flow. A line of approach on one day may be unavailable on the next. The change in levels can even influence your awareness of the static shoreline features such that the river presents itself as a new adventure with each visit.

The three hour float was marked by constant conversation between paddlers as different as the boats in which we paddled; a pair of kayaks, two solo tripping canoes (one poled and one paddled), two OC-1 canoes, and two inflatable kayaks. It was, to be cliché, a rainbow of boats and personalities. Fun? That goes without saying. Any day on a river, even in less than favorable conditions, is a joy that is difficult to convey to those who have not spent time on the water.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Gone Fishin'

Summer days are here and the river keeps folding itself around each meander bringing new mysteries into view. Gabe and I carried the Old Town 169 down to the "Elbow" and paddled downriver to the confluence with Salmon Brook.

It was just before 7 a.m. as we eased our way down the sandy slope off the bike trail to the put-in. The birds had been actively singing for well over an hour and were in full chorus as we navigated the first few bends in the river where its course moves away from the highway and the noise of morning traffic. A few small patches of mist swirled in quiet, ethereal eddies hiding until the last from the sharp rays of sunlight that emerged above the tops of the locust, oak, and poplar trees lining the banks.

Within the hour, we arrived at the mouth of Salmon Brook and paddled upstream a few hundred yards to a nice pool where we were able to cast about freely. It was pleasant to be in such a peaceful place with good company and the challenge of tossing a fly toward a deep pool where one might expect a trout to be moving languidly while awaiting a small meal. We didn't see a single fish rise in the hour that we were there, but no matter.

Back home before 10 a.m., we enjoyed a well deserved breakfast and cup of coffee and chatted about our next adventure.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Tiny Surprise

At the last bend in the river before my take-out spot, I stopped paddling - as I had done several times during this particular trip - and drifted with the current along the outer bank to look at the bottom that was now visible with the low water levels. This turn in the river is scoured to a greater depth by the action of swirling water during normal and high flow.

With the bright sunlight illuminating the light sand some three to four feet below the surface, I saw the unmistakable shadow of a turtle swimming slowly somewhere in the water column. It took me a few seconds, eyes focusing up and down through the transparency, before I saw it. There, about five inches below the calm surface was a snapping turtle no bigger than a silver dollar. Initially, I doubted that particular conclusion, despite the excitement of the find, as I was accustomed to snappers that were never less then a foot across the carapace and several pounds in weight. Yet there he was, moving at a leisurely pace almost at the mercy of the slow current, but still making some headway.

Curious, I slid the blade of my paddle beneath him and slowly lifted it to contact his feet fully expecting a panicked flurry of kicks and paddle strokes in an effort to escape my capture. Instead, and to my pleased astonishment, he stopped the slow movement of legs and allowed the paddle blade to lift his tiny body from the water closer to my gaze.

Testing the ferocious jaw action of this hatchling, which I foolishly assumed would be a scaled down version of his adult relatives, I moved a small piece of leaf I had plucked from the water toward his head. He didn't even so much as flinch. Calm and serene, he rested there on the yellow plastic of the blade until I decided about a minute later, out of respect for the fascination my little friend had provided, to lower him back into the water. Once again in his native element, he resumed his lethargic strokes which was how I left him as I struck out for home myself.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Patterns in the Sand

The water level in the Farmington is alarmingly low. As I paddled in bright, late-afternoon sun yesterday, the blades touched bottom with each stroke. I become entranced by the rippled patterns in the sand, however, and quickly forgot the concern regarding our near-drought conditions. My mind became occupied with thoughts of chaos theory and the predictability of the patterns given known variables like current, velocity, and particle size. But the beauty of the wave-like undulations in the sediments kept surmounting any thoughts of physics that craved my logical mind's attention. The perpetual push of the current and consequent smooth glide of my kayak above these miniature dunes added to the mesmerizing quality. Eager to feel this same sensation, I am about to head out again this afternoon on yet another dry, vivid blue sky day!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A return to the water.

It has been many months and in the interim I have visited the one mile stretch of the Farmington that sits outside my front door only once. The theraputic elements of water have, however, included an overnight weekend on another stretch of the Farmington with a large gathering of good people for paddling, food, and good company. I have also repeated an annual rafting trip with the senior class at Westminster School where I teach and serve as a dean of students. Both trips served to remind me why I love the water so much and why I started this blog in the first place - to remind myself on a daily basis of the wonder of water. I'll be gathering with about a dozen fellow paddlers tomorrow evening for a two hour run of the Farmington below the dam in Collinsville. We paddled the stretch last Wednesday on a beautiful summer evening pulling out our boats at the take-out just as the sun dropped below the horizon.

My camera is still in limbo and I mean to take it to the local photo store to see if there is any hope. Since my last post in November, however, I have purchased a video camera and will get some digital footage (megs would be more appropriate I guess) to post or link.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Water Rose to Meet Our Boats

Without the camera, I have handcuffed myself to the thought that I can't create the verbal imagery which has been such an important part of creating this journal. Yet, with the company of good people and the buoyant force of the water, I have experienced in the past two weeks what I had so sorely missed having not been able to get up into the remote regions of the Canadian shield. A week ago this past Saturday, my son, Gabe, and I joined five other paddlers on the upper reaches of the Farmington; just below the source of the flow I have been paddling for the past two months. The water level was up with recent rains and the air was a mild fifty-plus degrees as we each settled into our boat of choice for a five hour cruise through class I / II sets, some quickwater, and some flat stretches. There were two OC-1's, a C-1, two touring canoes that were paddled, one that was poled, and a kayak. The variety of boats matched the variety of men and young boys who came together to enjoy this fabulous resource.

And then, if such bliss were not sufficient to transition into a winter of skis and skates, we gathered again in western Connecticut a week later to join with some new faces on a smaller, yet no less adventurous, pair of drainages. The Bantam rises just west of Litchfield and then joins flow with the Shepaug to create a challenging and busy run of class I and II's that kept us all pumping away with the single or double blades. In the end, new friendships were germinating and plans to gather for a rendevous in the spring were sketched with more detail.

The buoyant force of the water rising to meet the varied hulls that day served both as a very real element of our day together and as inspirational metaphor.

Enjoy the photography and film of our days on the river:


Sunday, November 05, 2006


The deciduous trees are almost clear of leaves, now. The pin oaks seem to want to hang on to their annual proliferation the longest and the golden hue that has developed as a result lights the cliffside of Talcott ridge when it is bathed in afternoon sun. But it is inevitable, winter is in the wings and already one blast of the chilly Northwind has made its presence felt as far south as Connecticut. The sky seems lower with the more acute solar angle and the clouds, big, billowy, cumulonimbus affairs, race each other from overhead to the horizon in the South.

With the loss of cover, the entire landscape is bigger and more revealed. The cloak of green is gone and gone with it is the cover which held in a different sound – a contained forest echo below the thick canopy of summer. Now the only green is that held aloft by the pines, spruces, and hemlocks which offer verdant patches among the gray spiderweb of bare beech, maple, and oak branches. The forest sounds are more diffuse, each with origins more challenging to locate. All is set for the first snowfall of the season.

Frost has touched the area two or three times already and the movement of water and biota in the soil has slowed – anticipation of the months-long lock that seals the upper two feet of ecosystem floor in this region. The evergreens are in their full splendor. The glory of fall color from the deciduous trees is, indeed, unmatched but fleeting. The white pines, in particular, become the seasonal focal point of hope, life, renewal, and perseverance. The darkness and bitter cold of January and February will test the will of all creatures that venture for even minutes in the full exposure of biting, frosty air.

My paddling is stronger and more defined with the month of daily work. The changing air has made it important to move with a brisk tempo and to capture the heat of muscular contraction for comfort. I’m more cautious with my movements in an effort to avoid getting the cold water on my hands which would lead to a stiffness that interferes with the arm, hand, paddle shaft, blade, water connection.

This connection is, to a seasoned paddler, a vital element in efficient and enjoyable movement through water in any conditions. The closer the connection of the body to the water, the less the mind has to be a part of the equation, freeing it for the aesthetic pleasures that the wanderings of kayak or canoe bring. In the same way that the leaves can change the forest aura, affecting the traveler in so many different and interesting ways during a passage on foot along the dirt trail, the water is ever changing in character as well. Even the scents that rise up from the disturbed surface are as distinct as the month during which a river wanderer chooses to ply the watery course. The more time that I spend on the river, paddling the same stretch, the closer I engage with the subtle details. The banks have become very familiar to me as I look at how recognizable features – fallen trees, small tributaries, human disturbances – all appear to change with the shift in light, the rise and fall of the river, and the cooling atmosphere. I spend more time focusing on the minutae, such as the details of odor, with this increase in familiarity that the river and I have created.

I am excited for the first paddle in snow and anticipate with eagerness the sound of the flakes upon the cold river surface. In the time between now and that particular morning, afternoon, or evening, I continue to explore this American gem with an ever-deepening appreciation.

Author’s note: My digital camera took a particularly long plunge in the rapids and is currently not functioning. My hope is that it will continue to dry with minimal depositing on the circuit boards so that it will be functional again, soon. In the meantime, I will have to rely on photos that I have archived but not yet used to illustrate this journal.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Rain, Wind, then High Water

Today, the familiar mile that I have been paddling for more than 40 consecutive days appeared to be a very different river. Saturday's predawn calm ushered in a massive storm. With a radius of more than 250 miles at one point, the storm delivered rain from the northern reaches of New Hampshire and Vermont, south to the beaches in lower Delaware, and west to the Allegheny range in central Pennsylvania - not during the passage of this tremendous weather system but simultaneously. In the potato country of northern Maine, heavy snow fell throughout the day. I took a screenshot of the dopplar radar for the Northeast when the storm was well into its weakening stages late Saturday afternoon and it still appeared on the screen as large as some of the more severe Northeasters that punish this part of the country from time to time during winter months. Fortunately, the movement of this depression was relatively swift and rain tapered off here in Connecticut by late afternoon.

As the rain let up, the wind kicked in and pushed the storm north with a fury. Gusts that sent the downed leaves aloft again stopped pedestrians in their tracks. Gabe and I went to Collinsville Sunday morning to take advantage of the high water and enjoy some whitewater on the river just south of the dam at the old axe factory. With the breeze working its way along the current, turning into an eddy was a challenge and the spray from the tops of waves proved to be blinding. We got in a few good runs but couldn't take the usual time to play in and out of eddies or surf the bigger waves. The sun was out and a passing photographer, an elderly man, was able to have some fun with his new digital camera and zoom lens by getting some shots of our work in the water. It was nice to have an audience and we had a pleasant exchange or two with him.

I paddled in the afternoon on Monday down my mile. The river had a completely different look from the low water days of September and early October, and it felt different beneath the kayak. Looking far downriver, things seemed so much bigger and wider. The Farmington now had a character that reminded me of some of the bigger rivers I have paddled in Canada. In truth, it was still contained by the same banks that I had skirted in previous days, but the higher water level and greater visibility presented a new vista that I enjoyed with a warm feeling of being in the company of greatness. I'm realizing that the river itself can serve as a mentor to my continuing education of the world. It has presented me with many stories and adventures of which I have been more than just a passive observer. Every paddle stroke has presented some element of awareness that is constantly increasing my knowledge of my surroundings and, simultaneously exposing the limitless void of discovery.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Bridges: Preservation, loss, and a suicide.

I had mentioned earlier that the Farmington is crossed by five bridges in the town of Simsbury. Only four of those are available to traffic, however. The one foot bridge is historic for a number of reasons.

Built in the late 1800's, it was a relative marvel of engineering success for its time. The truss work is not only functional, it is quite beautiful as well. Relative to the more modern truss-style bridge further south,

it is more graceful and appealing to the eye. The engineering success is upheld by the fact that this bridge served one lane of traffic up until the construction of the span bridge just down river in the late 1980's. It is also one of the few bridges that survived the 1955 flooding. Bridge footings and abutments can be found in a few locations in town where the feats of engineering succumbed to the force of water in that year. I happened to be down at the foot bridge several weeks ago on a short bike ride/picnic with my wife, Paula. There we saw an elderly couple with out-of-state plates admiring the bridge and taking photographs. The rails are now adorned with wonderful flower box arrangements and hanging planters dangle from above all along its length. It is a scenic highlight for the town. Well, after a brief exchange the gentleman identified himself as the designer and builder of the new span.

However, he went further to point out that he had spearheaded the debate to preserve the old truss structure as an historic landmark. The intent to remove the bridge was purely economic, I suspect. The bridge is submerged by flooding every few years and I suspect that town officials recognized preservation as a costly option due to the need for painting and upkeep. Townspeople now sponsor the bridge by paying for the floral arrangements or donating to a general fund to maintain the structure. I is, indeed, well worth the visit.

Further downstream, another new structure is in place where a less glamorous span with a low clearance existed.

The route 315 bridge was frequently submerged by seasonal flooding blocking the most accessible route to Tarrifville and forcing a rather long detour. Here, the new construction and removal of the old bridge made perfect sense. However, it remains unclear as to whether the project was also designed in such a way to eliminate a very significant unofficial town landmark. A highly popular rope swing and dirt parking area was right at the foot of the downstream, river-right side of the old bridge. This swing was frequented all summer long by families and small group gatherings for picnics and even barbecues. Adults would converse and listen to music from car stereos while children would delight in the thrill gained by the perfect release at the height of a good sway out over the river on the rope. Many of the visitors were from Hartford and the more urban communities surrounding the city. They would trek to Tarrifville via routes 189 and 187 and gather at this well-known water hole of sorts. With the parking area access eliminated by the subtle rerouting of roadway, the clearing was frequented less often and has now grown over with vegetation to be just a memory of former summer fun. The rope has long since rotted or been removed and no trace of the old gathering place exists.

The last span, and highest, to cross the river marks the beginning of the famous Tarrifville Gorge where whitewater enthusiasts get year-round access to challenge and amusement.

This span will always remind me of a recent and strange paddling experience. My friend and kayak mentor, David, and I spent a morning last fall paddling from one end of the rapids to the other. Not having yet learned the kayak roll technique, I found myself having to wet exit on occassion. Toward the end of our run, I successfully negotiated the set of class 2's where the slalom course gates are hung only to experience a tactical lack of attention toward a large boil at the base of the last wave. When I emerged in mid-pool and started swimming my kayak toward the east bank, I noticed a rather large crowd gathered on the rock outcrop which marks the breached dam at the botton of the gorge. Among those in the group of about 15 people were a few police officers and rescue personel. Dave and another friend who had joined us part way down the gorge were over by the west bank where two EMT's were standing over a large white object floating just above the surface. Dave paddled over as I pulled the kayak and my dripping self up onto the shore to tell me that the object was, in fact, a woman's body. Stunned, we just sat and contemplated the fun we had just had juxtaposed with this tragedy unfolding before us. We stayed there for about twenty minutes and, when it became clear that our help would not be required, we continued past the dam and down the final set of the run.

Later we learned that the woman had lept to her death from the bridge. Her shoes were found on the roadway at mid-span. One of my co-workers knew the woman and commented on his understanding of the difficult life she had led. David and I later realized that, given our early start to the day, we had probably just missed her suicide by no more than an hour or so; a commutor had reported to the police, later in the day, that they had spotted the woman walking on the bridge as they passed by on the way to work that morning. Did she die upon impact? Could we have saved her if we had been passing under at about that time? I thought about these things for many days. Bridges are metaphors for many things.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Racing Darkness

My schedule has become busier, as it will when the school year is underway. I find myself loading my plate more and struggling to squeeze all of the plans that I have made into the finite time available. My daily trips on the river continue, but efforts to write after each venture have been stymied. Yesterday, I found myself settling into the cockpit and adjusting the spray skirt many minutes after the sun had disappeared behind the horizon of distant tree-covered hills. I knew that darkness would close in soon and if I paddled quickly, I would be able to beat it to the elbow where I pull out and walk home.

I stopped briefly at the beginning of the paddle to get some shots of an autumn dusk. In the short time that I floated in mid-river, all color faded from the clouds and hilltops as the evening grayscale intervened prior to the blackness of an overcast rural night. With an appropriate weight shift and some accompanying paddle strokes, I turned away from the old iron bridge which lies just upstream from the boat dock and locked into a fairly aggressive cadence knowing that this day's visit to the river would be a short workout rather than a leisurely adventure along the shallows of the river bank.

This trip proved to be flush with a series of disturbances which left me unsettled for sometime. Shortly after leaving the boat dock behind with my progress around the first big meander, I saw the unmistakable wake of a beaver about a hundred yards in the distance. As I approached the spot where I saw it submerge in the shallows by the right bank, I was startled by the loud warning slap of a beaver tail to might left. It was followed almost immediately by a twin response directly to my right from the animal I had watched. Clearly these two were very upset with my presence at dusk which is the beaver's time of greatest activity in the water.

With my heart beating a bit faster and the remnants of an adrenaline surge still lingering in my arms and legs, I paddled on chasing the little light that remained toward the double bend in the river where I end my daily voyage. Within a few minutes of having been rattled by the loud reports of beavertail upon water, I was further shaken by blasts from a double barreled shot gun on the flood-plain field up toward my right. This is duck hunting week in Connecticut and the state owns land on both sides of the river here in Simsbury. Although a small game area by most standards, the few hundred acres here attract many buck shot hunters along with the occasional bow hunter. Waterfowl, turkeys, and pheasants (often purchased elsewhere and then released into the state lands) are the species of choice in this area and only shotguns are allowed due to the small land area available and the proximity of residential property.

My company - although never spotted - was intent on working through every shell in his vest as fast as possible. He pulled off some 20 shots in about two minutes as I floated past the area from which his gun continued to shatter the otherwise calm evening. To my great dismay, his over-eager ambition to kill fowl led to some indiscriminate, wanton, kills, one of which I saw bobbing lifelessly past my kayak in mid-river. Another wounded bird was slapping a wing furiously against the water as it tried to get aloft. At first I thought that it was a parent using the lame wing ploy to distract me from its young, but I quickly surmised that young-of-the-year would have long since fledged and be off fending for themselves. This bird was clearly wounded and struggling. I grew angry that this hunter was so reckless and free of a genuine hunting ethos which is to give the bird a sporting chance.

As I continued ahead, I heard him pull of a few more rounds, and was glad to be leaving him in the distance. One more beaver surprised me with a loud slap of the tail, but I took the gesture to be a signal from the collective consciousness of the river that the hunter and I were unwanted. Today I felt welcome again, but my dreams last night were filled with disturbing images of conflict and uncertainty. I heard hunters again this morning and took solace in the fact that the week will end soon and the shotguns will be hung on the wall for the season.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Coffee, A Flood, and New England Weather

What a mixture of interactions, sensations, and moods today!! I grabbed a cup of Estima - or whatever the house was serving for coffee at Starbucks - and spent the first quarter mile just floating. With each sip I enjoyed the leisure of the current, the sharpness of the bright afternoon light and air, and the sound of the kids learning to row crew at the boat dock slowly fading in the distance behind me. When I finally finished my refreshment and stowed the cup under my neoprene cockpit skirt, I was around the first bend and heading toward a bright blue sky with near perfect cumulus clouds. The water level is so much higher than it has been for the past few weeks that I am seeing things along the shore which previously went unnoticed.

One such sight, that I have been aware of for years, is the old automobile that rests where it settled with the receding flood waters back in 1955 - the year of the great flood in this area. In mid-August of that year two large tropical storms - hurricanes Connie and Diane - hit the area with a one-two punch that devastated many communities. With soil saturated by the first series of rains swept northward, the fourteen inches of additional rainfall that followed within a week had nowhere to go but along the ground, into rivulets, turning streams into raging rivers and rivers like the Mad in Winsted and the Farmington here in tobacco valley into torrents that could hardly be characterized as anything but flood upon flood. I have heard stories and seen photos and can only imagine what the morning of August 19th, 1955 might have been like for the people who woke to the devastation.

Today the level is near normal for this time of year. Its push kept me moving along at a pace that helped me to enjoy the foliage and still get a good workout. Without an awareness of the change overhead, I rounded one meander and was struck by how quickly the sky had darkened and how completely different the day had become. So too, were my thoughts and feelings quickly shifting from the wonderment of history to the chameleon nature of New England weather. Harbinger of winter's challenges, the leaden sky settled lower and I quickly finished my paddle for the day with an uneasy feeling to carry along, with the kayak, back home.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Earth Turns

The sun does not set. I know that might seem like heresy to state with conviction that all of those calendar photos and moments with a loved one have all been centered around an event that really does not occur, but it is, in the end, a very concrete reality. The sun does not set. It is, in fact, relative to our position here on Earth, not really moving much at all through day or season - the sun that is. Instead, the sun, as the Aztecs would, I am sure, have enjoyed hearing, is indeed the focal point of our solar system about which all of the gas, dust and rocks, large and small, move. Some of those rocks and balls of gas are significant enough that we call them planets. One of those rocks experienced an incredible turn of events about 4.5 billion years ago which led, completely by chance, but with a devine presence smiling in observance, to the formation of consciousness within beings - amalgamations of minerals and water - that has made it possible for me to be writing these words and sending them out as waves in the ether at this very moment in the warped continuum. I am loving every microsecond of this opportunity and simultaneously bending the moment, captured in the photo here, around to be present with my hands as they flicker across the keyboard. I can be present AND be with the few minutes last evening when I stood on the bridge while Gabe sat in the truck pulled to the side of the road watching me take the series of photos to capture this beautiful image as Earth continued spinning ceaselessly, and at unimaginable rotational velocity to bring one more in a series of "sunsets" that really aren't. The river brought me to that point as it brings me to this point now. Enjoy this moment and then make a commitment to go out and enjoy a moment alongside your river.