Back in the River, Finally

At the coffeehouse, which resides on the ground level floor of a three-story 120 year-old log building, it was eighty degrees all afternoon. Inside. That’s with five fans running at a constant, blade-spinning hum.

So it is no surprise that after:

1) Singing overtly loud to The Be Good Tanyas (in order to distract myself from the task of mopping),
2) Tending to my blistered pinky toes with homemade salve, and
3) Small-talking with Wendy (the double-soy-latte-steamed-to-140-degrees-to-go order)

that a trip to the river was in order.

At quarter after six I locked the door to the coffeehouse from the inside, kicked off my shoes at the door, and tiptoed barefooted across the freshly mopped floor to the back pantry. There I stripped down, changed into my suit, threw a towel around my waist, a hat over my braids, and bolted out the door (slipping back into the shoes on my way out).

In less than forty-eight hours the river has morphed from frothing, milk chocolate brown, speckled with kayakers in full gear to it’s ordinary deep green and customarily bland class two rapids. I drove straight to Granny’s Beach to assess for water damage and determine if it was safe to jump in.

In 2004 our floods were so tremendous that Granny’s Beach all but washed away. But noticeable chunks of riverbank were torn downstream, deepening a shaded pool where the water slows enough for sand to collect. Today I was pleased to find this part of the “beach” largely unaltered and after a quick toe-test, I splashed right in.

The water was as cool as a ceramic bowl that holds melting ice cream. It felt silky and jarring at the same time, and it also felt like home. Small fish slithered along my ankles, nudging me deeper into the river and I smiled at their presence. Not long ago even the thought of their touch would have given me goosepimples. Now I consider them a sign of a healthy river and welcome their company on my summer swims.

Drying off in a sun-bleached beach chair, I watched the sun set along the back of dark brown hemlock tree trunks. It flamed orange then paled to buttery yellow with the backdrop of a simple blue sky. It occurred to me then that watching the sun sink into the horizon is as intimate as watching two lover’s kiss. Locked in orbit, spinning for what feels like eternity, the sun kisses our earth every night at the very lips of our horizons, wishing her well into the cool hours of dusk then darkness. And sunrise then, faithful the next morning like the gentle shake of a lover’s hand on the shoulder of the sleeping earth.

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