The sound of the rippling water lapping at the shore combined with song birds brings a sense of peaceful joy. I approached the wading willows as if greeting old friends. The willows seem to dance ever so slightly in the river’s currents and it feels as though they are listening to the songs of nature themselves. In the distance the osprey soars across the sky looking for a pearch stunned by falls. Dragonflies skim the waters surface as they hunt occasionally leaving little ripples of their own and the evening sun reflected in the tiny waves produces a light show that only God himself could engineer. The breeze coming off of Kanawha Falls is cool and gently stirs in and around the small park. I take a deep breath and release the stress of the workday into the river so that it will carry away the cares of the outside world. I thank God for choosing to place this natural sanctuary here for me. I take a few minutes to tell him about my day and seek his wisdom. But most importantly I listen. I listen to voice of peace spoken by God and echoed by the moving water. The conversation isn’t long and with my peace renewed I climb back up into the big blue truck and head for home.
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It’s hard to believe that in just a few short weeks summer will be over. The pop of color from the wildflowers will be replaced by the reds and yellows of the fall leaves. The soft feeling of the the cool green grass on bare feet will give way to the dry crunch of fallen leaves beneath my favorite pair of boots.
I spent a few minutes outside of my office at my day job and there was a familiar crisp scent in the air. The wind blew a little cooler and I knew that this was the prelude to the change of seasons. The Appalachian Mountains in fall are one of the most beautiful sights your eyes can behold. The vast forests give us a grand finale with a symphony of color just before the trees take their winter slumber. The days are still warm enough to enjoy without the jungle like humidity. For a brief time the trilling song of the tree frogs will change over to the chirps of katydid. The bucks will begin to rub away the velvet from their antlers and establish their territory with epic wrestling matches. The bears are now fat and looking for a nice quiet den to sleep in. Country gardens are in harvest and those who still live off of the land are busy with canning. The wonderful aromas of stews, jellies and jams are coming from every hill and holler in the backcountry. So breathe in the last few moments of summer and get ready for the grand finale of Fall.
The deep forests are an easy place to get lost. You start out on a dirt road and you just keep walking when you run out of gravel. Eventually the mud transitions into leaf litter. The moss grows thick and the gnarled undergrowth fills every available space. Just beyond these trees are the cliffs I used to play on as a kid. There’s a rocky ledge with a large overhang that one can sit on and observe the forest floor below. I’m guessing that it’s only about twenty or maybe thirty feet in hight but to a young man in his early teens it may as well had been the edge of the world. I would get all garbed up to the point where it looked like I was going on a major expedition down the Amazon. I carried a large Bowie Knife on my belt for survival. The only thing I ever used it for was to mark trees by cutting out a patch of the outer bark and being careful not to damage the live bark underneath. (If done right it in no way harms the tree). I would sometimes take a slingshot along. ( called a catapult by many of my international friends). I would try to pick off individual leaves with a small stone. The stones are not nice and consistent like the fancy ammo in the stores today. That made hitting anything consistently quite a challenge. Sometimes I would pick up acorns or hickory nuts for slingshot ammo which was better for accuracy but didn’t really impart much impact to the target. I’d bet that if I made my way to the ledge today I’d find a pile of small stones in the back of ledge waiting to be used during the zombie apocalypse. Other days I would trek down into the valley below. I would pick out a sapling to craft into spear. There was a particular rotten stump below the cliff that was just the right consistency to allow the spear to stick. I was actually better at throwing the spear than I was with the slingshot.
The road in the feature image was one of my favorite childhood memories and a way of escape from the mundane world and a gateway to a primeval adventure.
Today is a busy day on the Kanawha River. The coal barges were all over the water moving massive amounts of coal up and down the river. The little tug in tonight’s feature image was pushing three barges and all three are the size of office buildings. The ones here are riding high on the water which means that they are empty but I’ve seen these little boats move full barges and more than three of them at once. I’m told that the men who work the river live on the boat for months at a time and are home for a couple of weeks before embarking on another journey. In a previous post I remarked that electricity is delivered by train but it travels by boats too! It impressive to see the little tugs at work moving huge amounts of mass with ease. And that brings me to the point of tonight’s post. Never judge anyone by their size. Especially yourself. When a person pushes their limits they might fail the first time. And the second and third and so on. But eventually something happens and the weight budges. That’s when you really dig in and push with all your might. Once the weight is moving it’s easy to keep it moving. Once it’s been done it’s easier to do it again. And it’s all in the heart. Not the muscle but the spirit. The core of our being that empowers us to never give up. What’s more is when two tugs team up and work in synchronicity. They don’t just move twice as much but three or maybe even four times the mass. Like the little tugs we are capable literally moving mountains when we’re equally yoked. Two people who are in sync compound their strengths. They can cheer each other on and keep that spirit energized. I was encouraged to watch the little tugs at work today and I hope you are too.
I have to admit that I have never been in a kayak before. I’ve always had small rowboats. Still, there’s a strong sense of freedom that comes from gliding over the water and going someplace that you’ve never been. I guess that it’s the perception of a broken barrier. We seem to crave a life without any restrictions. Thanks to Hollywood our perspective of what constitutes an adventure is colored by images of Indiana Jones trudging through the jungle or people in some life and death struggle with the elements. But adventure can be as simple as deciding to do something new. It doesn’t even have to be a thousand miles away from home. In fact there’s a lot to be said for having a warm bed and WiFi when the sun goes down. But I digress. My Appalachian Mountains are full of rivers and streams with all kinds of little coves and hidden beauty to explore. I have been told by a friend that while exploring a local river he found a hidden cash of prehistoric stone points. (I’m sworn to secrecy as to the exact spot on which river). Even the little creek that runs through my yard has yielded a few fossils. But the best reward we get from our rivers is the tranquility that comes from peacefully floating around and going wherever your heart takes you.