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.