This time last week I was floating on the Haw River with a few other writers for my 2nd Annual Fall Pen & Paddle. Between last year’s paddle, the earlier kayak trip this spring, and last weekend, every trip has had idyllic temperate weather. While I’ve been surprised at our luck with the weather, the natural inspiration on each paddle has surprised me each time too.
On this trip, the inspiration started on my drive to the launch site. I saw a baby cow on the streetside of a fenced pasture, facing his herd on the other side. A few minutes later, I saw what looked like a very kind older man handcuffed between his old SUV and a state trooper’s flashing patrol car.
These situations posed many questions that were on my mind when we pushed offshore. The latter inspired a poem called “Whiskey Sunrise” where I explored a possible intoxication as the reason why the old man was pulled over on a Saturday morning. The poem starts:
Clouded whiskey sunrise
pushing through the sky
like a dandelion puff…
During another one of the writing sessions, I had drifted toward shore and became distracted by a baby turtle walking underwater on the riverbed and munching on its breakfast. I wrote some short verse about its “riverside mud buffet.”
Around this time in the shallows by the shore, I was mesmerized by a school of guppies. This triggered a memory from my childhood that I immediately wrote down. When I was small–think pre-K–my dad found me in the backyard sprinkling fish food into a bucket. We had a few aquariums in the house, and a small pond my dad made out back, so there was always fish food around. When my dad asked me what I was doing, I told him I was “feeding the guppies.” He came over to look in the bucket, and I was feeding mosquito larva that had hatched in the standing water.
If you’re interested in exploring the Haw, the fantastic team of Haw River Canoe & Kayak has been the outfitter for these paddles. They provide shuttle service, stand-up paddleboard classes (and SUP yoga!), partner with breweries/wineries for kayak tours, and have an island with a camping site you can paddle to!
The next day, I attended a seed-themed poetry reading at the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill. The NCBG has a Saving Our Seeds Exhibition that runs through December 22. The poetry reading was one of the events planned this fall to foster awareness and appreciation of seed conservation.
A handful of local poets read their nature-inspired poetry, some using seeds not only as metaphors for growth or for being rooted in place – but also migration. Each poet brought a unique perspective and provoking language that has made me look at plant life in new ways.
One of the poets, Joanie McLean, passed around a bowl of seeds during her reading and encouraged everyone to pick one. This small act made a literally tangible connection to the subject of seeds.
Around this time last year I shared how my writing routines change with the seasons. That shift has happened once again, and this time nature seems to be at the forefront – both on land and water.