Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Jumping Back In

I haven’t been in the water for 3 months, at least not to snorkel for the sake of snorkeling. I led some ridiculously large trips with kids on the upper Chesapeake in 1 foot visibility that turned more into free swims than snorkel explorations of bay grass beds. The trips got kids who never swam in the Chesapeake into the water and a few of the 100 students I saw each day for two weeks really got into snorkeling. For the majority it was a loud screaming free swim. Not a bad thing, necessarily, especially for kids who otherwise would have never had the chance to experience the Chesapeake. But they weren’t the snorkeling explorations I envisioned when I organized the trips. A few factors led to the dry hiatus, and I really started to question the point of it all. Water stayed murky late into the summer, so visibilities never really got good. The more I questioned why, the more it seemed that human existence, even at its most basic simple level, meant impaired waters. What actions could creek snorkeling possibly inspire that would improve water quality if human existence impaired it? Funding for environmental education continued to get slashed and while there was (and is) a ton of hype and saber rattling about no child left inside, funding for environmental education programs is not only lacking, but diminishing. Opportunities to get kids out snorkeling seemed to be disappearing. Thunderstorms dumped, rivers got muddy and flashed, water levels slowly receded and the mud settled. But the small windows of clear water seemed to always conflict with my schedule, so I finally conceded to what’s the point, and quit trying.
I felt the effects of not being in water. Water is so primal to our existence. We need it physiologically, and I need it spiritually, so after three months without being in a creek I started to feel disjointed, ungrounded, and floundering on land. I decided it was time to jump back in.
I stood on the bank of Basin Run on an early November afternoon. I knew the water was going to be cold, and wasn’t sure what to expect. There have been a lot of big flows between the last time I was here 4 months ago and now, including the largest rainfall event since Hurricane Agnes in 1972. I expected things would be different and not necessarily for the better, but this spot on the side of the creek still felt like home.
The stabbing sensation of frigid water on my face and hands felt comfortable. There weren’t the mounds of sediment I expected after the heavy runoff we had over the summer. Rocks weren't smothered by sands and gravels. The bottom, while different, was the same as I remembered it: cobbles and boulders, clean of sediment and sand. I pushed upstream against the swift current and fresh cold water shot down the front of my wet suit. I crested a line of cobble and boulder and watched a school of black nosed and rosey sided dace hold in the pool. Even the fish are here. The point is, to answer my question from three months ago, that life goes on. Rivers flow. Things change, but there are also constants. Basin Run is here, and it will be. But it will be different. Life finds a way. Creek snorkeling helps me remember these truths, and this short dip reconnected, reengaged, recentered and reinspired me to take up the cross of clean water once again.

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