W & W #24 – A River Symphony

There’s something extra peaceful about walking alongside a river. A river is peaceful yet wild as well. A lake, a pond, even the sea, can appear totally calm, totally still. But a river always flows, moving on to somewhere else. And movements create symphonies.

This week I chose to walk along the Manistee River near home. The Manistee is a designated trout stream in my neck of the woods. Having this designation means the water is cold, clear, and pristine.

“The (Manistee) river rises in the sand hills in southeastern Antrim County, on the border with Otsego County, about 6 miles (10 km) southeast of the town of Alba. These deep glacial sands provide it with a remarkably stable flow of clean cold water year round, making it a popular river for fishing as well as canoeing.” (from Wikipedia).

This first week of September has been cooler than normal and I am beginning to see signs of autumn which even for Northern Michigan is pretty early! Leaves are just beginning to change from summer green into an autumn rainbow. Some of this is due to the distress the woods have felt for a two-week period of drought.

One thing mesmerizing about a river is how it not only reflects what it sees, but turns what it sees into a masterpiece of its own making. We don’t just see a blue sky, wandering clouds, trees moving deftly in the wind; we see a feathered composite of it all.

This day, I chose to pause and write along a grassy bank filled with the scent of a favorite meadow flower — spotted beebalm. I don’t know why they chose to call it spotted. The larger, pale pink leaves have no spots, just the tiny insignificant yellow ones do. I think a better name would be towered beebalm or stacked beebalm or Tower of Babylon Beebalm. The way it rises up on its slender stalk with bloom after bloom stacked neatly above one another is a wonder of nature. And the fragrance — ah, the fragrance! They fill me up with sweet wafts of summer fading and the anticipation of autumn’s birth.

When you walk a river you never walk in a straight line. You meander. You go this way and that way like a bird riding the wind; except you are riding alongside the river, following its lead, dancing to a song you both hear. Others may join in from time to time like this regal fellow . . .

A Great Blue Heron looks for a trout

A river sings of earth, pebbles, water, grass, fish, and other tiny creatures that allow its invisible fingers to stroke their bodies like a new mother’s touch on an infant’s cheek. For a moment I contemplated slipping off my hiking shoes and dancing barefoot in its cool caress. But instead, I just listened. Listened to its soft ringing tones. Listened to the grasses waltzing with the wind. Listened to my own breath rising and falling as if I too were a part of this grand symphony.

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