Paddling: Poetry Friday

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

We move. A lot. So attending the same event two years in a row is a rare treat for me. Last year when we canoed the Farmington River post-hurricane, the river was so full we wanted to duck when going under bridges. This year the water was so low we stopped and carried our canoes and kayaks through shallows. Last year was the highest the guide had ever seen the water in September, this year the lowest. And I got to see both.

70+ boys in 40+ boats paddling on a small river make a dramatic spectacle. The herons that live along the river were not thrilled by our parade — we kept startling them into the air. They would fly down the river, resettle, only to be startled again. One time when we startled them one of them had just speared a fish. In his surprise, he dropped the fish back into the water and one of the scouts fished it out. You could see the entry and exit points of the spearmarks of the heron’s beak.

There’s not much of the solitude and peace that I usually associate with canoeing when you share a river with 75 boystrous boys… but I still found a few of those transcendant moments, watching my paddle dip in and out of the water.

from Skin Canoes by Carolyn Forche

Once I nudged a canoe through that water,
letting its paddle lift, drip.
I was sucked down smaller than the sound
of the dropping, looked out
from where I had vanished.

You can read the rest of Carolyn’s Poem at The Poetry Foundation.

We passed a family in hand-made boats and I felt a wave of longing for a wood canoe of my own and the stability it would represent. I’ve always wanted a wood canoe but I move too often to invest in something so difficult to store.

from Hiawatha’s Sailing by Longfellow
Thus the Birch Canoe was builded
In the valley, by the river,
In the bosom of the forest;
And the forest’s life was in it,
All its mystery and its magic,
All the lightness of the birch-tree,
All the toughness of the cedar,
All the larch’s supple sinews;
And it floated on the river
Like a yellow leaf in Autumn,
Like a yellow water-lily.

Get out an enjoy the beautiful fall weather by floating “like a yellow lead in autumn” on a river near you!

For more Poetry Friday, visit Renee at No Water River.

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7 Responses to Paddling: Poetry Friday

  1. Pingback: Poetry Friday: A Bowl of Poetry Candy

  2. Linda Baie says:

    This brought up many memories Katya, sounds as if you had a good time in spite of the crowd. Just the fact of taking so many on the adventure is wonderful. I love that line in the first ‘letting its paddle lift, drip’-that says it! A few years ago, my husband passed on his green wood canoe to a young teacher at our school, thrilled to take it on for his own trips. Fun to think about! Thank you.

  3. Oh wow, sounds like such an adventure, I’m envious! Finding quiet amidst a crowd of energetic young boys is divine. I miss the water and the sound of the waves. :(

  4. Oh, you got me with the first quote about messing about in boats! I love that passage. I too always wanted a wooden canoe. In my dreams! For now I just enjoy your poetry.

  5. How wonderful to paddle around in this post today! Thanks for the story and the wonderful poetry. The Longfellow selection is perfect for this start to fall… . :0)

  6. Not often do I have a chance to ‘mess about in boats’ and when I do, I’m fearful of bringing a camera lest we tip over! Nonetheless, these words beautifully captured the spirit of being on the water. Would have loved to see the heron’s beak-marked fish myself!

  7. Joyce Ray says:

    Katya, I loved imagining you canoeing in a parade. Our canoe is often left lonely on the shore now that we’ve become kayakers. Thanks for Longfellow’s lovely poem!