The River Warden

“The protector of this river, is the flies.”

If you can learn to be kind to the smallest of bugs, you will understand what it takes to be kind to your fellow man.

You cannot stop death, destruction, everyday strife or even malcontent, because all are symptoms of the environment that the one experiencing such is often unaware of. I did not realize this, as I set off with my new hobby of kayaking. I thought of myself as some sort of protector of the wild, as if I could so much as control my paddles effectively. I set out just the same, to meet the day, and whatever came.

I learned that rivers are living systems, because everything alive in a river is fed by its flow, whether it be the trees and shrubs along the shore, or the water grass growing from one or two foot below some surfaces, birds, insects, and curious creatures I’ve not ever laid eyes on call that place home.

This is a kayaker’s journal, and a reflection on a reflection, again. The first page is a crudely drawn map, which continues onto the next.

It was a bright summer day, and the wind was calm. I started out from a small resort rental shop just east of Crystal Falls, Michigan. I wrote about the many things I saw and thought about while kayaking. My goal was to immerse myself in my environment, and so for the first two trips I didn’t bring my cell phone or feel comfortable enough taking pictures without dropping my phone.

My map drawing skills did not increase, but I was able to throw together references to the encounters I had with bugs, the things I learned about the water, or things that surprised me about the environment I came so far to find, and to call home.

An odd thing happened. I’m tempted to say that ‘I don’t like spiders’, but to be honest it is just because I’m afraid. In fact I was likely afraid to admit that, but I learned that my fear can result in the death of a spider, and I suppose I just never felt very bad about that before. Watching the movie Arachniphobia when I was 5 likely did not help.

As you see, on the first day of my journey I was seeing the river through the lens of my own self-actualization, but I did not yet understand that my presence on the river made far less of a difference than I thought it did. I pulled some large plastic things out to trash cans, and felt good about spending extra time fishing those things out, but in the end didn’t they just go to a landfill somewhere?

It amazes me the utter failure of myself and all humans, it seems, to be aware of the massive amount of death all around us. I’m not even thinking of human death, of which there is much, but of the death of living creatures in general. People rarely are bothered by the death of an animal until they are about to run over it. Just think, every time a person washes the bugs off their windshield at the gas station, they are casually taking pleasure in tidying up their personal world, from the hundreds of bugs they avoid looking at on their radiator.

The way we treat animals, is the way we are willing to treat our fellow man, so do not take lightly the lesson I have learned, about the way fear makes people try to justify violence.

Day 2 was like any day, except on this day I was kayaking, which I had never done before and it was exhilarating. It wasn’t so much that I had fun or was happy, but that fun and happiness came from seeing so many new patterns to life. I learned so much about life, through observing the living.

A curious thing happened. I learned after at least a dozen minutes that a giant spider had been riding atop my fisherman’s hat. When I went to shore to urinate, the spider jumped off my hat, rappelled off my arm and disappeared into the bushes. It turned out, the spider wished me no ill will, and likely just wondered how it would get back to its web which my head had passed near to.

The 3rd trip was rather short, because the lake I was on was small and took only 30 minutes to cross. The channel of water I wanted to go down was blocked by rocks, sticks and debris, within a culvert. It was 80 or more degrees Fahrenheit. I did start bringing my camera, and so I got some good pictures.

On my 4th trip I went back to walk past that culvert and travel to as many lakes through channels as I could find. I made it to the next lake, but I went home knowing there were more channels and more lakes to find. I took my phone, and used the camera. The following pictures are of my journal that day, as well as from that camera. I found the work of beavers in a place no road can take you. This would be the last time I took notes in my journal while kayaking.

I found serenity, in a small island on a lake in the middle of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and I wanted more of it, so I went out again for a 5th time, but to the first river I visited. That day I went the other direction, and explored a lot of side channels that yielded amazing solitude and beauty.

I searched the map in my area for places that have lakes with channels, and I found Otter River, which I traveled down for over an hour to find Otter Lake, and a very peculiar effect of waves going two directions at once. It would be my 6th trip.

For my 7th trip, I went to a place that I thought would go through and carry on for hours, but it was rather dried up, covered over by fallen trees, and closed off to the world without wings or fins. This is a place where Canada Geese, ducks, and even wolves dare to tread.

For my final trip, I went to a new lake, and explored a lot. The small cliffs on the tiny islands I found, were something I didn’t even know could exist, and these last few dozen pictures are worth a look.

Thanks for your interest in my kayaking adventures. Farewell, and until part 2 perhaps.

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