Some Wisconsin days develop soothingly, like a deep breath, a sweet segue from the staccato pace of summer, though hints of winter hover on the edges of the trees.
Sunday felt like that for us and we unwrapped her slowly; tea on the front porch of our cabin, church in town, a stroll through the woods, a float down the river, a late Packer game on TV and a glorious sunset.
We finally, finally pulled two kayaks out onto the water, paddled up river for a bit, and then floated comfortably down. A bald eagle flew overhead, turkeys squawked from shore, and ducks practiced their takeoffs and landings on the water around us.
We silenced our cellphones and enjoyed the onomatopoeia music of the woods, a paddle’s steady splash, the lead goose’s bossy honk, the wind’s whisper through the creaking trees.
We never saw another human, which made me think of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself (not the whole thing. Our float wasn’t THAT long). Just this stanza:
Loafe with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat,
Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not
even the best,
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valvèd voice.
Whitman may have been writing about his soul, but I like to think of the valved voice of our river and the stories it could tell.
We once looked up from a river float to see a giant buck staring at us, a dignified host tolerant of our shenanigans but ready to lock the door behind us as we floated through his woods.
I used to tell Molly bedtime stories about what happened in the woods near our cabin when we humans had left for the day. They were full of fun-loving baby bears, gentle deer and mischievous ducks. I still wonder what goes on when we shut the gate behind us and head home for the week, though Molly is all grown up and our trail cams have hinted at cycle of life encounters I’d rather not see.
Winter waits on the near end of October, and summer has sadly expired. How lucky for us, then, to get a whole day to stave off worry, turn our faces toward the sun, and let the river’s current carry us a while.