June Haibun: Downriver

In my memories of spring paddles, the river and the skies are gray. The trees that line the shore are leafless, but birds sing out loudly.

This spring, when we put the canoe in the water it was raining. The first mile of paddling was cold and we wondered what had compelled us. Later, when the rain had stopped, I wondered how we would have fared if it had not. Then, we navigated the many parallel channels of the river in its wide valley and knew the day would merge into the many memories we share of this river.

Slip past sunken point
   Cormorant looks north from perch
Current takes us south

When October comes we know we must go to the river once more to sustain us for many months. The day is somehow always clear and sunny and cool. We only share the river with a few fishermen or duck hunters. The white pines stand in sharp relief to a pastel palette of hardwoods on the bluffs.

While trying to consume the experience, to commit not just the experience but the feeling to somewhere deep in memory for the frozen season ahead, I also give in to autumnal urges for reflection. This is when I thank the river, when I see how another year of getting to know it has changed me.

Osprey fishes above
   He competes with fewer now
A telling test for all

It is dreams of summer days on the river that are in our heads when we decide to try paddling in cold springtime rains and it is to revisit such memories that takes us there on quiet fall days.

On a day in mid-summer we leave the landing where revelers are beaching rented canoes and picnickers are strolling the banks and we don’t go far before we ease the canoe through a narrow channel and into a familiar backwater.

When the unrelenting sun becomes unbearable, it is a simple matter to land the canoe and swim. Preferably, this is done where a spring-fed creek enters the river and one can find in the mingling waters a temperature that is just right.

A bass jumps by shore
   Bright rings by a leaning tree
Green banks hide meaning

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