And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.
— William Shakespeare, “As You Like It”, Act II Scene 1
For a couple hours earlier this week, I literally stepped away with my coracle into the cooling waters of the Little Shenango. I wrote of the virtues of the coracle back in April when I was re-covering mine. The new skin is holding up well, and carried me along this blissful trail just beyond the trees from the public.
In summer, this little stream is far too low for convenient canoe or kayak travel. Navigable stretches are broken up by shallow rocky areas. Arriving at these spots in the coracle, I simply step out and walk along beside it. If necessary, I can pop it onto my shoulder for a minute. Then as the water begins to deepen again, I step back in and continue to bob along in the gentle current.
I usually see more wildlife when floating than when walking. It is so silent, and the animals don’t quite seem to know what to make of the situation. Humans as well, judging by the response of the four boys on the river bank as I floated past.
The cedar waxwings certainly didn’t seem to mind. They were a thrill to watch as they darted out into the sunlight above the river to prey upon flying insects. With just a little point-and-shoot camera along, I couldn’t capture much detail, but my eyes could take it in.
Looking very mischievous with their masked faces, their tufted heads moved sharply back and forth as they looked for their next opportunities. Their aerial attack maneuvers revealed flashes of bright yellow and red, before they settled back again on a streamside branches or dangling vines. I seemed to be their last concern and they may have enjoyed the chance to perform before a small audience.
I encountered deer browsing on the river bank and an osprey carrying a fish in her talons. I often see a bald eagle. He didn’t show up this time, but the great blue herons are more reliable. I love the sinuous forms of their necks and their almost prehistoric appearance. Their patient personalities are a quiet contrast to the waxwings.
And, of course, the trees are always there, arching over to shelter the stream. I love the beautiful, powerful roots of the sycamore in the photo below.
In his book, The Little Grey Men, Denys Watkins-Pitchford wrote, “Adults are always so busy with the dull and dusty affairs of life which have nothing to do with grass, trees, and running streams.” Of course, much of these “dull and dusty affairs” are necessary and unavoidable, but, once in awhile, an opportunity to step into a running stream ought to be taken — with or without a coracle.