Reflections upon the river
"Within the walls of the bluffs and the many strata of rock which we observed was a history of the earth. We were but the tiniest, immeasurable spark in that bigger scheme."
Perhaps in my case, I have had over the years a significant sense of a missed opportunity when I chose my first car over returning for our junior year at WS. This journey put that annoyance to bed. This was a journey of completion for me. It closed the gap. It was the missing link between my 1936 Chevrolet and the present. It connected the Alpha and the Omega in my life.
As I further reflect on the river trip, I survey an array of subtle occurrences that lodged in my memory. These seeming insignificant happenings are really the underpinnings of the glory that I continue to feel. The big ticket items have been photographed, mentioned and documented; the eagles, the bluffs, the wind, the campsites. Yet in my view the essence of the journey was in the unnoticed, the not-so-obvious.
Ned was one of two people that I really had known. What luck for me that he had made paddling a lifetime passion. His quiet presence was the backbone of the voyage. He was soft spoken yet he carried a very strong framework of action and response. He didnt just smile, he beamed happiness (little wonder Tina fell in love with this guy).
Tina was the person who delivered the trip from its embryonic beginning to a healthy, hearty success. She was our Sacagawea. She single handedly paddled her canoe loaded with a thousand pounds of stores and a child. Her day ended only when the camp was dark and quiet. Her wisdom and sense of community guided our hearts.
Tim James was the guy I wanted for a roommate in the junior year. Yet, I was unable to muster the courage to ask. I feel blessed to have had this reunion, a chance to heal my wounded thoughts. Tim was our Border collie. He was in constant motion for the entire trip. I often felt worn out just watching Tim tend to a myriad of details associated with all aspects of the journey.
Terrys job was to keep Tim in check. Her quiet presence was the anchor for her beau. She is a well schooled trooper who knows the ropes. Her thoughtful and keen intellect was a solid pillar in the temporary community.
When any question arose about the trip, all eyes turned to Dave. As our captain he brilliantly charted and sailed a course though the tricky shoals of organizing an event. He was our fearless and unflappable man who led us to the further shore of human experience.
Arlene was one of the people Id not met. At first I had a tendency to think this person was out of her element. She carries an aura of sophistication and grace that is not commonplace in the wilderness. Through the entire experience she seemed at home and relaxed. Even when some would have gone shrieking mad from the mosquitoes, she never wavered and proved a strong, competent addition to the journey.
Eric Harvey was among the people who drove a long distance to attend. His life experience was rich in scope and provided a keen insight into areas of our living that few are privy to know. His career as a psychologist gave him a well rounded view. His quick wit and timely humor cemented a bond that will endure until the last memory fades from this blue/green spinning orb.
Tom Rie was amazing. He was the least likely candidate for a wilderness adventure in my view. Yet he handled his situation with deft and calm and proved to be a person of great inner fortitude. He was a wealth of information about other classmates. His encyclopedic mind consistently yielded a wealth of appropriate detail on a variety of subjects.
Dan Smith, our on-board lawyer, gave the trip a heartfelt presence that I imagine doesn't exist in the world of barristers, tort and justice. His life's story was so amazing it continues to provide me with a well of inspiration. An otherwise, seemingly normal person, this guy forded life with a burden that would crush most. He was the secretary of the trip. He noted all of the points of interest, the campsites, the weather and the critters. His work will be of lasting importance for generations to come.
Winnie Givot's presence painted the trip with a delightful spectrum of color and texture. Her presence was art personified. She gave the trip depth, character and beauty. Looking over her shoulder one could see the journey coming to life in her notebook. Her voice at the campfires added a range of tone and harmony that filled in spaces with joy and color.
Frank Riggs flew half-way around the world to attend this event. I suspect he found the effort to be worthwhile. He seemed happy. His warmth was infectious, his bright smile lit up the day. He had reason to be melancholy but he wasn't. He was a true friend whose soft ease was a golden thread in the tapestry of the event.
Syd Craig was my roommate in the sophomore year. I had seen him one other time in the intervening years. To me he hadn't changed at all. He carried a pesky smile that indicated his crafty mind was busy generating interesting thoughts. He volunteered to be the trip photographer, and did a sensational job. I've seen the pictures that really capture the essence of the journey, yet rarely saw him snapping shots.
Lydia and Maya anchored the flotilla in the innocence of youth. They were perfectly behaved, polite and put up with 13 geezers very well. The two kids were taken from their everyday lives and stuck with the grand parents for two weeks. They were precious. Their parents and grand parents deserve kudos. To guide children to such a degree of decorum and manners while maintaining sweetness and grace, is no easy task. Good job and thank you for allowing us to be in their pristine presence for the week.
Combined with the mix of persons, this canoe trip nudged into the 'Epic' zone.
There is in nature, not only her magnificence, but also her omni present sense of order, of serenity, intelligence and sometimes grim reality. Within the gracious Mother is all of life. Immersing oneself in this environment always is an antidote for the rough edges of existence.