Soon after I moved onto an unfinished sailboat with the man I loved, I discovered we were moored near an eddy. This was a tiny bay which spiraled the water of the passing river. The river as a whole flowed north but, when water from its edge slipped into the little bay, currents gently spun in a circle before returning to the main flow.
I discovered the eddy one lazy day when I went exploring in our sailboat's rowing dinghy. As I pottered north along the river and entered the mouth of the bay, I realized the current was pulling to the south. I stopped rowing and let the current work. Moving water tugged the dinghy and me toward the bank then curved, passing a goose field, passing some rotten pilings. When we approached a trickle from the nearby marsh, the stream moved toward the main river, and we went with it. Revolving slowly, the dinghy and I drifted back into the river. I had not touched an oar since entering the bay.
Let us say I am frustrated with sandpapering the interminable deck. My palms are cracked, my shoulders hurt. I am tired of wrangling the countless unknowns of getting a sailsboat ready for sea. Both body and spirit need a break, so I untie the rowboat and get in.
It is classic Oregon weather. The sun is behind a complex array of clouds—some black, some purple, some white and showing peepholes through to blue sky. This threat of rain, this hint of sun, touch the spring colors with an even, saturated richness so they glow against the steel silver sky. The river is flat calm—mercury and green reflecting light and trees. I row slowly within this dry damp world—the water deep and smooth and private; the colors deep and silent. I catch the eddy.
A fish flips out of the flat water. A silver slip and concentric circles, like a raindrop up. Another one flips, then another. Around me the water flutters as little fishes jump and drop. Perhaps they leap after gnats for dinner. Perhaps they are trying to escape being someone else's dinner. Maybe this happens every day. Today, I am a large leaf drifting through the diner.
A mallard paddles past, watching my contraption but not nervous. The boat and I are a big log to him with a strange branch on top. Geese honk by in the other direction, commenting but calm. The wind lifts cottonwood leaves and my mind drifts and lifts—out into this vibrant, silent world where—huff! There are otters!
One perfect otter head, nostrils flaring and snuffling like a pony to get my scent, a head on a long neck staring and flaring, holding in the eddy right where I float. Next to it, a more bashful one, partly looking, partly glancing downstream, looking, ducking a bit under water, a glance, then dives down. The first otter face still holds, drifts into the main river and submarines under—snuff.
Water, current, silence. One head pops up again downstream and checks on me, then gone for good.
I am out of myself now—out of hopes and plans and sore shoulders, into otterwater. The sudden connection catches me like the circling stream and dissolves me in Life's great flow.
* * *
Have you had experiences that take you suddenly
out of the common worries and frustrations of life?
Do these strike you as a good thing, or not?
As a reader, I like essays and novels that are informed by ideas. Annie Dillard. Michael Ondaatje. I am hoping here to join others who feel the same. I look forward to thoughtful conversations!