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  • Writer's pictureRoberta Rathert


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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