Saturday, July 10, 2010
When I was a kid I spent hours rowing our neighbors' dock. Which never moved. The dock was held fast to the river bank with four fairly solid posts, but I rowed like hell towards whatever destination I'd decided upon. And then I stopped to fish for clams. You fish for clams by laying on your belly and peeping over the side of the dock with a stick held ready; when you spot a slight gap in the mud - a mouth waiting for easy breakfast - that's where you shove your stick. The clam will clamp. Lift it out of the water - slowly, slowly - and pry out the stick to use on the next victim. It's an art, and at ten I was a master. And then I'd row myself home, full of clams, smarting with sunburn, singing loudly over the sound of water passing by. I've visited that dock a few times since sauntering through the invisible gate of adulthood, and every time I'm distracted from conversation by the wispy layers of years that slide and tease with memory and potential. We don't all get to visit a place that was once vital and purely created by our child selves. I'm lucky. But also I'm wistful. That girl was always certain of her destination, even when she had none, and firmly confident in her ability to row that dock far enough and fast enough. Not since age ten has my ego been so intact.
M and I met sixteen years ago when we lived in Pittsburgh. The three rivers defined that city - the Ohio, Monogahela and Allegheny - and our routes to our respective bookstore jobs. Moving to Vermont we found ourselves in the midst of another three: the White, Connecticut and Ompompanoosuc. Our first house here had a tributary of the river running near our backyard. There were stone steps leading down to it, and the thaw always caused it to overflow and rage like a wildman. It was so loud you could hear it rushing past when you were in the bedroom; it meant that Spring had truly arrived. I automatically look for the nearest body of water whenever we view houses we may be interested in buying. A few years ago a friend in a nearby town was selling her house. The most attractive feature was that it abutted the river, and the bedroom had full glass doors that could be opened wide. In just a few short steps you were in the water. There was even a boulder with a space worn away by time and pressure - a perfect spot to sit and read. I dream of it still. The most wonderful aspect of the Green House we almost bought was the view of the river. I found it breathtaking and tried to imagine my writing desk in a place that would allow me that view while I worked. The train tracks in the backyard were less desirable, but surely worth the trouble. Alas, we'll never know. Someday there will be a house and with luck a nearby stream or brook. This is on my list of Must-haves and Cannot Be Compromised. When I am near water I feel my heart searching, the blood coursing through my veins in sync with the flow of water. Rushing, sometimes slowing, never stopping, ever onward.