Riverlogue

This blog originates on the banks of the Atchafalaya River, in Louisiana. It proposes to share the things that happen on and by the river as the seasons progress. As the river changes from quiet, warm, slow flow to rises of eighteen feet or more, there are changes in the lives of the birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles that use the river. And the mood of the river changes with the seasons. I propose to note and comment on these things.

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Location: Butte La Rose, Louisiana, United States

I transitioned a few years ago from a career as a water-pollution control biologist. I want to do this blog to stay in touch with a world outside my everyday surroundings, whatever they may be. I like open-minded company and the discussion of ideas. Photo by Brad Moon.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Freedom to See

I’m 68 years old today, and I’m a very lucky man. I can get up before sunup and walk a short distance down to the river and watch the mist rise off of the water. I can think about the mist in any way I choose. I can see it purely as a physical phenomenon and, with the help of others who have also wondered and concluded things, come up with an explanation for why it rises this morning. And I can assure myself that there is a reason why it didn’t do that yesterday, and science may help me predict whether it will do that tomorrow. I am free to think about it this way.

But I can also think of it in terms that include how soft it seems, what mood it creates in a watcher. I can wonder if there are things in the mist that I cannot see, things that it hides. I am lucky because I have the time to do this.

There are toads in the yard, here at Butte La Rose. Sometimes they jump out in front of the lawnmower and I have to stop quickly. I am free to wonder what goes through a toad’s mind the moment before it feels the end of its being – or whether there is any awareness at all. But they do almost always get away from the lawnmower, those that I see in time. This toad will answer a call to find water and sing out for the next generation in the coming warmer months. I am free to wonder how it does that, but it’s OK if I don’t know.

Yesterday there were hundreds of white pelicans on Lake Fausse Pointe. And just maybe that’s because there were more fish than I have ever seen rolling on the surface of the lake. I am free to wonder about the fish and the pelicans, the science and the other way too. The birds are beautiful, they are so white. And I can admire the contrast between the white feathers and the water and have no concern as to why that is.

Have I ever seen pumpkins growing on trees? Yes I have, if I let myself imagine them in a friend’s yard growing on a persimmon tree. The reality of the persimmons is good, but the thought of pumpkins hanging there in the blue sky is very fine too.

And then there is Elena. My birthday present was to go with her to the zoo for the first time. I watch her go to the zoo and she looks at the giraffe but then she gathers acorns with equal interest. At 18 months she is more wise than most of us. We try to show her exotic things that zoos collect to show us the things we do not share our habitat with. And she chooses to collect acorns. How many of us know our personal environment well enough to say that raccoons and possums and blue racers and acorns are not as exotic as giraffes? They are more common, but do we know possums any better than we know giraffes? No, Elena has the right idea. Learn what is around us for the everyday value there is in knowing enough to be comfortable away from air conditioning. We will make the best decisions if we feel good about our environment, and we will feel good if we know enough about acorns. I hope we don’t try too hard to convince her that giraffes are more worthy of her interest than acorns. Left alone, she knows the way. I am lucky that I can watch Elena wonder about iguanas too.

The freedom to truly see what is right before us. Most of us don’t seem to have the time to notice, but it doesn't have to be that way. We can gather acorns too.

The river is 6.5 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge today, rising a little more to 6.9 by Wednesday. The Mississippi has a little more water to send us in its middle reaches, but both the Ohio and Mississippi are falling in their upper watersheds.

Rise and Shine, Jim

2 Comments:

Blogger Randy said...

Happy Birthday Jim. I hope and pray that you will have many, many, more birthdays and will continue to post stories for all of us to enjoy for many years to come.

November 06, 2006 9:51 AM  
Blogger jim said...

Glad you feel that way Randy.
My sentiments exactly. Jim

November 06, 2006 10:46 AM  

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