Constant Waterman 

From the Journals of Constant Waterman

I traverse more marsh, and a pair of mallards takes off with loud alarm. I approach two swans who haven’t yet nested, else I might have to excuse myself to the cob. They paddle away, demurely, and I paddle away and promptly take the wrong turning. So much water flows that I mistake a cul-de-sac for the real river.

After a dozen double strokes I realize my mistake but continue forward. The water slows and spreads out. On a weathered snag, a painted turtle raises his little head. I drift within a few yards before he tumbles into deep water and disappears. Ahead, I can see the river through the alders.

I find a gap and pull my way through and again ascend the stream. Now the current strengthens and I have to exert myself. A mile or so upstream stands another dam - it will take me an hour to work my way so far. On a tiny spit of land, connected in drier times to a grassy road, rests an old, old bench - up to its arthritic knees in water. Really two Adirondack chairs that share a common frame, their barn red paint has all but weathered away. They’ve stood here for years - without a house in sight.

But soon I come to a cottage, a field, another house, and then the Woodville Road. Piled froth rides the water - a heady beverage for any who would partake. Ahead, I can hear the thundering of the falls. Eight feet high and eighty broad, they grace the front yard of a trim colonial house. The mill has long since gone. The driven water spills yellow-white; the pool below the falls swirls, alive and loud and violent.

I reach the bridge just below the pool and grab hold of a girder. I haven’t headroom, the river in spate, to use a double paddle. I bounce in place for a minute or two as I watch the water: foreordained to fall downstream - foreknowably and forever. Then I let go, to enjoy a free ride home.

At least as far as the millpond. There I find the wind blows in my face. The water spreads out, the current offers little help, and I have to work the last mile back to the landing. A dozen Canadian geese announce my passage, swim warily off, indignant and vociferous as only geese can be.

Ahead stands the big brick mill. The road across the roaring dam resounds with scurrying traffic. A half mile more, and I get to stretch my legs; and surprise my old but contented truck - dreaming beneath the maples.