THE James, that is. Ever since I can remember, there has always been something magical about being on or near the river. The first summer that I came into my own as a teenager and had a driver's license, my destination would unfailingly be Goshen, or somewhere else along the Maury or James. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to get back on a section of the James that I am most familiar with--the portion that gracefully winds its way through Rockbridge County, Virginia, where I grew up. Since Salmaan and I have our own kayaks, Mom and Dad rented a canoe, and for a little extra green, the company agreed to portage our kayaks along with the rest of the renting group to the put-in, thereby saving us a lot of gas and time shuttling back and forth. The field beside the river where the livery was situated was beautiful, and quite lively with half feral pups and a ton of cows.
I know I've been away from home way too long when I start taking pictures of cows. Although, this particular calf was really quite adorable. The bus that took us to the put-in ambled its way through an absolutely gorgeous part of the county--yellow gravel roads snaked their way through the most relaxingly familiar countryside. I couldn't help but take a few shots on the way.
While the morning hours were a bit overcast, the sun soon burned its way through the clouds, and we were off on our trip. There was a mild rapid right after the put in, which helped us get our "paddle arms" if you will. It was one of those rapids that's really shallow, but the river drops off quite sharply afterwards, leaving the water to bustle about confusedly in high, narrow peaks. It reminded me of Ransom's description of the inlets of Mars in C.S. Lewis's "Out of the Silent Planet", a book that I just frustratingly realized I loaned to an aquantaince a number of years ago, which was never returned. Ahhh....lesson learned. Only truly good friends, old souls, should be loaned a book written by C.S. Lewis. Let's hope they found it too good to give away, eh....?
Anyhow, we all really enjoyed the trip--perhaps Salmaan most of all. I could really see him gain confidence on the water in his boat, and he kept talking about coming back soon. I liked his idea of a weekend at a bed and breakfast, enjoying the river, the beautiful mountain views, and some good wine. One thing my husband has never lacked is a romantic heart.
He has always said that when I get really happy, my eyes turn a special shade of green. He calls them my "river eyes". I felt like I saw them on him numerous times throughout the trip, too. Although, his are the deepest shade of brown--like the center of a sunflower.
This is a shot close to the end of the trip, nearing the take-out. The mountains framed the river for most of the day, but I found them particularly beautiful here. My camera never does the Blue Ridge justice. Mom and Dad are there in the middle of the shot in their canoe, with Salmaan on the left. The Parental Units actually did tip their canoe on one of the last rapids, but came out on the other side with only a few bumps and bruises.
I know it sounds strange, but I've always thought there was something particularly intimate about the river. I feel my thoughts more clearly there...my soul is at peace. On a few occassions when I dipped my hand into the water, the current was such that it felt as though the River God himself was holding hands with me, guiding me along my journey. I know that sounds strange, as I sit here in my study while the sirens blare by...but the otherworldliness I feel there is never something I forget.
And that, my friends, is pretty much the long and short of my love affair with James, Maury--the water in general. May it never end. It's a freeing thing to find a state of being that feels like, in the truest sense of the word, home.
I'll never take it for granted.