Walking Up The Creek

Katy remembering long ago

Imagine one of those July days when one is aware of nothing but summer. The sky is blue with a few ruffles of white cloud, the sun sends brilliant streams of hot golden light pouring relentlessly over the landscape and the unmoving air, heavily laden with dust, smells of dry grass and red roses.

Even flies are too hot to buzz about today though I see several indefatigably industrious ants scurrying along the porch rail gathering the grains of sugar I spilled when sweetening my iced tea. Lazy, lazy days of summer.

It would be an excellent afternoon to follow a creek to its source as I did many years ago. Those threadlike streamlets that emerge from tree lined gullies along the highways and byways can lead to scene after scene of natural beauty. Fallen trees blanketed with luxuriant mosses, curtains of wild grapevines draped over shale walls, primordial ferns and tiny flowerlets tucked in secret places delight the eye.


Tiny waterfalls or weathered shale out-croppings revealed fossils to my wondering eye. Pools of stagnant water rich with miniscule life, streamers of green scum richly evil smelling, small holes suggestive of chipmunks and larger ones which might belong to woodchucks, all added to the cool enchanted world I was exploring.

I sat silent for a while, listening for the hushed sounds of woods creatures scurrying about, although most of them hole up during the heat of the day. The bird's songs, bell-like and clear, were more melodious than the town robin's chirp. Water beetles ferried back and forth over the surface of a pool. There were prints of dainty hooves at the water's edge that told of deer visiting the place at some time.


Between the steep follage-hung slate walls of the gully the air was damp, cool, redolent of rotted wood, leaf mould, and stagnant water. A dark stain on one wall showed where water seeped from the ground, oozing a few drops a day into the stream

A turtle had set up housekeeping here. All alone, it seemed, he lived his hermit life with a well stocked larder of bugs, a bit of water for swimming, a nice patch of sunny rock for basking, and a good mud bed. Everything a turtle's heart could desire.

The gully twisted and bent, hiding its path, then disclosing a new picture as I rounded the next curve. A boulder worn to glassy smoothness by ages of flowing water, terraces of eroded shale indicating the gradually decreasing water level over the years, a shallow cave in the ravine wall where I might have sought shelter from a rain storm, narrow defiles where harder rock resisted the water's hungry licking and finally the sodden spot whence the water issued from the ground.

No bubbling fountain that, but a dark, wet, mucky place under which lay a lazy artesian spring, idly seeking escape. I was tempted to prod with a stick or even dig a bit with my hands to see if I could free the spring's mouth to flow more abundantly. I visualized a gush of clean water roaring down the course, clearing the stagnant pools, washing away the smelly scum, filling the stream banks with a singing, racing flow.

But my efforts were of no avail. There was no impassioned prisoner there awaiting release. Then I realized that had there been, the whole lovely world I had just explored would be changed, wiped out. The mosses would be washed away, the turtle's hermitage destroyed, the water beetles hurtled into oblivion, trees undermined, rocks tumbled out of place. I sat back, wiping muddied hands on the grass and studied the spring.

No, no harm done. The slow seepage continued untroubled by my well intentioned tampering. My feeble hands had been unable to upset the balance nature had established. I retraced my way, descending waterfalls, scrambling over tree trunks, discovering new bits of loveliness as I went. Then I emerged, chilled, damp about the seat, greenly wet about the feet, legs and arms mud spattered and scratched, into the late afternoon heat, feeling that I'd been in an entirely different world, refreshed and a bit wiser for my experience.