The New River, whose headwaters lie in my part of the Appalachian Mountains, is often considered the oldest river on the continent and even the second oldest river in the world—though not all experts agree. So how did it get its ironic name? No one knows for sure. In any case, I wrote this piece at an August writing workshop at New River State Park a couple of years ago as I reminisced about the many canoe excursions the Gnome and I have shared along this wild and scenic river.
A Lazy Drift Down the August New
Ducklings huddle in bank cuts
resisting parents’ push into the current;
two deer take a soothing afternoon sip
cooling stick-thin legs in mountain-icy water.
Holsteins wade across shallows
to greener pastures, perhaps,
and a Great-Blue stands majestically,
its sharp eyes ever watchful for a tasty fish dinner.
I bump across rocks and glide over riffles,
the sun dappling my legs and arms,
my bottom as chilled as drinks in the cooler;
I wave to splashing children and paddling picnickers.
Trees bear witness to beavers’ work
as swallowtails float above;
sticks of an osprey nest
rest on a boulder ledge.
Thirsty gray-green leaves
and occasional yellows and reds
flutter down and drift along
River’s edge is plastered with signs of autumn—
seed-popping touch-me-nots vie for space
with sunny goldenrod and mauvy Joe-Pye weed;
citrine coneflowers fill every cranny.
Clouds playing across the mountains
produce ever-changing panoramas of light and dark
as they cast reflections of blinding white
on the emerald river surface.
in the late summer quiet
I am lost in the flow of this river
of calming mindfulness.