Saturday, May 12, 2012

The River's Path

Bald Eagle by Lauren Bond Kovsky
There's a whole world that we have NO idea about. This world is home to eagles and herons and mink that even I, as a lifelong naturalist and nature girl, have never had any idea about. When I started exploring the rivers east of town, I discovered a magical, wondrous place that is literally teeming with wildlife... it's surrounded by development, oil wells, cars, and cows. Does anyone know about this place? Does anyone know where the river goes when it leaves town? Does anyone know how much water is withdrawn from the river for irrigation? How would the river flow without barker and gross reservoirs? How would the river flow if we didn't use more water than we need? If we KNEW this place?? How could our life change if we knew this place?

Pelicans by Bob Braudes
Watersheds. The natural delineation of the country. We all live downstream....What lives downstream? Eagles, owls, muskrats, mink. Who gets killed due to the abundant litter gathered in piles in the eddies and against the bridges buttresses? The pelicans. How would we know? Only if we know this river. Only if we know that pelican would we know that it had broken its wing trying to escape from a flotilla of debris.... And that it no longer soars in the skies above the St. Vrain river.

Where did that trash come from? What's the water quality here? What does fracking on the shores of the river do to the water quality? How much oil and sewage and god knows what comes through the drains and the sewage treatment plant's outlet?

Great Blue Heron by Paul K
There are so many questions I have about this place and our effect on it. So many. What I do know, though, is that the lower st vrain river is a magical place. There's a family of bald eagles that are thriving. There's an absolutely huge rookery of herons. There's at least 2 families of owls on the shore, and many many red tailed hawks. There's deer and mink and raccoons and fish and snapping turtles and a coyote and more.... What I see here is hope. What I see here is hope. What I see here is a relationship waiting to happen. What I see here is a way to heal our relationship to the natural world. What I see here is..... something no one knows about. And they need to know. Everyone needs to know.

St. Vrain riffles by Wendy Gronbeck
This is part of why it's essential that my work begins at home, not at a retreat center upstream. The retreat needs to be downstream... That water connects us to home. It connects us to the rainwater from our roofs, it connects us to the snow covered peaks that we ski on and see every day. It connects us to Nebraska and Missouri and Iowa and Kansas and Illinois and Arkansas and Tennessee and Mississippi and Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and... beyond. To the rest of the world. To every other culture and to the rain and to the trees and the Amazon and to EVERYTHING.

Lauren on the river by Lawrence Braun
Water connects us to everything. This is why I am attracted to rivers. This is why the river's path connects us to everything.

It blows my mind that these rivers connect us to everything. Really.... to EVERYTHING. The molecules of water that I am floating on are the same molecules that my mother drinks in her glass in Maryland and that fall over my waterfall in Pennsylvania and waters the cedars on the Olympic Peninsula and fills the Pantanal in Brazil during the wet season and was the very same molecule that my ancestors drank, and that sustained the dinosaurs. It blows my mind!!!!!
Killdeer by Wendy Gronbeck

The river's path connects us to history and to the future. It connects us to the eagles and the dinosaurs and our ancestors and to future generations. I feel this as I float down the St. Vrain river, and it blows my mind.

This is what being on the river means to me.

Platte River watershed display at the Lake McConaughy Visitor's Center.  Photo by Lauren Bond Kovsky
(Thanks to all of my Boulder Naturalist Outings members for the incredible photos and the joy of sharing these magical places with you!!!)