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  • Writer's pictureRoberta Rathert

Tonight.


I'm leaving here. I have stayed close to my things for two days and two nights, hunkering down on this sandy beach with shady backdrop of trees. This is a narrow little island that has no one's interest but mine.


I put up my tent and camping hammock, spread out my things, and sat on the sand in my chair. I love this little place with its healing qualities, critter sounds different in day than at night.


A family with children has pulled their boat onto a beach across the channel. The distance is far causing them to look like tiny Legos moving around so small. I see their fire and enjoy the breezy sounds of voice floating by. It's just enough to know there are other humans, so oddly comforting.


I'm rising at four to beat the sun and want to be on the river by five. But tonight, I am focused on sleeping with my tent doors open. Last night so many barge tows came through. At six mph it took all night to get them past. As each made the turn downstream, the tow's giant lamp came straight at my tent. As it moved closer, the light was filled with swarming Mayfly shadow. It was surreal, me in here with just nylon between us - the barge, the swarm, the rain, the world, and me.


As the barge got closer, Mayflies knocked against the tent, dozens and dozens or more as if someone was throwing mud wads at my house. The beam turned, the light-starved Mayflies followed, and the tow pushed the barges silently by. Moments later came the slapping of water on itself as it rolled up on the beach outside my tent. Then quiet again until another tow came around the corner. The trains that run all night on both sides of the river alternated their whiney whistles far off.


So, for my last night, I will leave the tent flies open so only its net stands between us. I want to see monster barges slide by heavy in the dark. The tug comes at the end with a soft rhythmic swoosh and distant brushing well-tuned. I love hearing it in sleep. It never goes fast but the same slow plod.


Last night before bed, I watched the river. It was beyond dusk but still enough of it to make out two forms come silently downriver. One was yards ahead and offset, a long stream of wake behind each. The shape was large and like a fluffy ball, speed was steady. The forms went in a pin-straight glide unlike a water bird poking zigzag fashion. I watched them as they purposefully passed, still wondering what they were.


I guess I'll zip up my tent. In daylight it's easy to make decisions about dark. But when night comes, that's another story.









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12 Comments


shy_jackson
Jul 10, 2022

Your entries are so powerful and descriptive. The vulnerability you’re sharing with us truly speaks to your strength. Thank you again. Prayers, love and respect.

God watch over Bobbi and shield her against anything that does not mean her well, in your name I pray.

Amen

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Roberta Rathert
Roberta Rathert
Jul 30, 2022
Replying to

Shy,

Thank you for commenting and reading my posts. Thank you for all you have done on behalf of Paddling for Hope!

Bobbi

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Guest
Jul 09, 2022

Your last paragraph is a fitting bend in your story on the river! Your truth gave me pause and a chuckle.

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Roberta Rathert
Roberta Rathert
Jul 10, 2022
Replying to

Yes, it's a daring thought to sleep exposed in the wild. But being alone in the dark makes different decisions! I laughed a little, too, at the time.

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Guest
Jul 09, 2022

Your words of the things you saw and felt brought a peace in my heart. Thanks E


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Roberta Rathert
Roberta Rathert
Jul 10, 2022
Replying to

That's nice to know. Thank you.

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nancyandralphknudkin
Jul 09, 2022

You description of passing barges, and having the light flood your tent, the thrumming of big diesel so close and then the waves from massive barge presence brought back a similar night on a small houseboat near McGregor with our kids years ago. Great writing. I'm also glad to read that you have given yourself time to recover from the trials and vulnerabilities of life on the river.

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Roberta Rathert
Roberta Rathert
Jul 10, 2022
Replying to

Thank you. Your comment is very thoughtful. It's an experience out here on the river, that's for sure, as you know. I appreciate your words.

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Guest
Jul 09, 2022

Thank you for the perspective about the weird, seasonal mayflies! The rest of us certainly aren't likely to see that and that was fun. Though I also keep thinking of the image of your blistered feet in Holland as somehow in deep memory too (or maybe it was Paris but definitely in younger days). Don't forget to wear a hat in this sun!

Maureen F.

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Roberta Rathert
Roberta Rathert
Jul 10, 2022
Replying to

No Mayflies in New Orleans? They are odd little creatures, only live a day, don't bite or sting, not sure their purpose!

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