Thursday, May 20, 2010

Of springtime and the river

Needed a water fix, needed it bad. So an afternoon at Lake Natoma during a spring shower seemed right. It sprinkled at the Negro Bar boat launch and became a steady downpour on the paddle up toward Old Folsom. Millions of tiny wet kisses caressed lake, kayak, and face.

Under the old Folsom Bridge, an eddy. Though hardly bigger than the distance from bow to stern, the pool offered shelter from rain, current and cares. Even the roar of  overhead traffic was muted. Only the thumpa-thumpa of tires on steel joints made it down to the waterline, a bass beat for the rhythmic plink-and-plunk of rain. Meanwhile, up in the bridge rafters, sparrows struck up their own tune in a rowdy chorus to spring and to life. The river rolled by like a great freight train, and time seemed to stand still. Sometimes, the right pace for paddling is no pace at all.

It lasted 15 or 20 minutes and seemed longer. Then the river broke the trance. Feel my power, it whispered insistently. Upstream, rocks that usually poked above the waterline were nowhere to be seen. Small whirlpools swirled and rippled in spots where there should have been a silky sheen. When the current became as strong as the prison wall ahead, the bow surrendered. On the way back downstream, the river gave a playful nudge here, a gentle bump there to remind of  its power. No need for that, boss. The river always wins.