The Babble of a Brook

Take a hike. Walk with water.

At camp, there’s no running water, no indoor bathroom, and no shower in the sense that our society is used to. We fill five gallon containers from a spring, haul the containers in the bed of the truck back to camp, then dump it into a heavy duty tote. A pump connected to a hose pumps the water to a faucet. Tada! Running water.

            When the electrical power goes out, we prop the five gallon container on the counter with the spigot overhanging the sink, again our version of running water. When something is so labor intensive to obtain and finite, you pay attention to its use.

            Reading the camp log, Dan, a camp member, extolled the virtues of a heated outhouse. This past winter, when the mercury hit one degree, the electric baseboard gave him a warm respite from the harsh weather. Camp took awhile to heat in such bitter cold. Six hours of running the pellet stove and a fire in the fireplace, and still, he saw his breath inside.

            Dan came to camp seeking a brain enema (his words). He realized solitude wasn’t what he needed, but the distraction people provided from his problems. He needed the solitude of the forest though to come to this understanding.

            On Gifford Run, I watch my husband present a fly to trout not so easily fooled this late in the season. Missing the start of the season in the spring, I elected to pass on purchasing a trout stamp.

            We watch for rattlesnakes as we traverse the creek. The reptiles give warning with a rattle of their tails before they strike. I’ve seen enough rattlesnakes in the woods to be convinced that they won’t seek me out to strike, but only bite if stepped on, startled, or provoked.

            As I write this, a mosquito lands on my arm to get his fill of my blood. More people fear snakes?

            Here along the creek I come back to myself. The calming chatter of the water over rocks is soothing to my ears. I enjoy the respite from too loud music piped over speakers. I don’t even mind when the wind chimes in with her version of a chorus.

            Here along the creek the smell of petroleum and asphalt is replaced with clean, fresh hints of earth, leaves, moss, and an occasional drift of honeysuckle. Last week, we sweltered when the air conditioner broke down. The breeze passes over us as we travel along the moist earth and stone banks. Cool pockets of air form between mountain and creek and trees block out the sun’s glare. Although ninety degrees, I’m not breaking a sweat.

            My husband describes the terrain as it appeared in the spring. The stream was much higher and swifter, foliage less dense. He uses a fly rod given to him by my dad. My dad also tied the flies he uses. His dad has gone from the earth. I know my husband thinks of his father when we visit these woods.

            He’s not used to the action of the new rod and misses a fish. He’d have released the trout anyway. Today, he doesn’t fish to eat but to clear his mind. Some may take offence, but until you’ve gone through the motions of fly rod on a stream how can one person criticize another’s form of meditation?

            This third rock, covered with moss warmed by the sun, is quite comfortable. I pause my writing to watch the trout dart below the water’s surface and to watch my husband. He lands a native and shows me its spots and striated colors. A quick snap of my camera and the fish is released. At some point, I may paint the fish on canvas. Another, this time a stocked brown trout, noticing the iridescence of its skin, I snap. He releases.

            I pause again. This time to pull out my knife to sharpen my pencil, my husband to untangle his line. Today, I chose to write in pencil. The smudges remind me that not even these words are permanent. Why does mankind pursue so much that’s not?

             Our tasks completed, he brings in a third fish, a brook trout. Three different varieties, natives and transplants, coexist with water skimmers, crayfish, and other species I have no names for.

            For the third time my husband asks, “You ready?” “Yes,” I say. Neither one of us has made a move to go. He still casts his line. I continue to write.

            When we return to camp, we’ll put up the tarp that is the shower. We’ll fill the sun shower bag with water. About three gallons of water and biodegradable soap will wash the day’s grime from our bodies. I like that the back of the tarp remains open to the woods. Not everyone is comfortable with exposing themselves to the great outdoors, but I wish to see and remember that if here one and a half gallons were enough, why not back home.

            I forgot my water bottle on the rock. My husband offers to go back for it. I tell him, “No, I forgot it. I’ll go back.”

            I’m not afraid even though the woods hold bears and coyotes. The bears I’ve seen. I’ve only heard the coyotes soulful cries at night around a fire. Respect and fear are two different things.

            I pause one last time. I listen intently to the babble of the brook hoping it will divulge a secret, a secret that will help me to return sooner and to stay closer to the earth always. 

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